ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Whitney Burdick’s dogs, Buddy and Stiel, never leave her side. But after they became unusually attached to her, she knew something was off.

“They were so clingy,” Burdick said. “It was on top of me all the time, under my feet all the time. Wherever I was there they were. After a while I figured I need to get checked out, somethings not right.”

Burdick said she noticed a lump in her breast and didn’t think anything of it. But because of her dogs, a Dalmatian Pyrenees mix and a Labrador Great Dane mix, she made an appointment with her nurse practitioner anyway.

After an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy, she got a diagnosis no one wants to hear. On Nov. 18, 2022, she was told she had breast cancer.  

“We were pretty upset that first weekend,” Burdick said. “We were very caught off guard. Shocked, because my family is healthy.”

Burdick went through a double mastectomy, had lymph nodes removed, a hysterectomy and a 12-week regime of chemotherapy. Yet she took on all of those procedures with a fearless attitude.

“You get the news; you deal with it, and life goes on, so you have to,” Burdick said.

She has been cancer-free since the mastectomy in January. 

For Burdick’s nurse practitioner, Christina Senesac, it’s a story she’s never seen before in a patient, but not one that necessarily surprised her. 

“I’ve read articles and different stories that you’ll see here and there of dogs acting funny, but she’s the first one that’s actually come in and said that the dogs were acting funny with her,” Ascension Medical Group’s Christina Secesac, APRN, said. “If we pay attention to the cues, you can really see that the animals really do know.”

Burdick said this wasn’t the first time her dogs had alerted her of a medical emergency. She said Buddy alerted her of two miscarriages before doctors did.

Now, Burdick, who had no family history of cancer, is encouraging women to get checked out if they feel anything out of the ordinary. 

“Get checked out, don’t put it off,” Burdick said. “I put it off for maybe two or three months, and by the time I got checked out, I had four masses. Family history doesn’t matter all that much.”

She thanks the support system of her family, her friends and her faith for holding her hand throughout her cancer journey. And of course her dogs, Buddy and Stiel. 

“If I hadn’t paid attention to Buddy and Stiel, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” Burdick said. “I only got checked out because of them.”