A very special dog named Clive paid a visit to St Anne’s Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by his owners Michelle and Kris Sutherland.

Clive, Michelle and Kris had travelled from Hull and they owe this opportunity to have a holiday to Clive’s life-saving abilities.

Clive is a Medical Detection Dog, and he has quite literally transformed Michelle’s life. Michelle suffers from Addison’s Disease, and Clive’s fantastic sense of smell means he can alert her to when she needs to take steroids before she even begins to feel unwell.

Spaniel Clive was just a nine-month-old pup when Michelle first became sick. “We didn’t have a strong bond then,” she said. “When I came out of hospital he kept jumping at me like a magnet to my mouth. At the time I thought it was just annoying.”

Michelle and Kris only learned about Medical Detection Dogs when they visited the Cruft’s Dog Show and got chatting to the charity’s Chief Executive. They learned that while many dogs are trained to support people with diabetes, only one dog in the world had been trained to work with someone with Addison’s Disease. Clive is now one of only two dogs in the UK with this training.

His ‘jumping’ at Michelle when she was ill was a sign that he could scent to detect that her steroid levels had dropped – a full half hour before Michelle herself realised that she was becoming unwell.

Clive, now six-years-old, is now a fully trained detection dog. “He has made a massive difference to my life,” said Michelle. “We are here on holiday which could never have happened before. Without medical detection dogs I don’t think I would be here now.”

And, to prove that even on holiday, life-saving dogs like Clive don’t take a break, he began jumping into Michelle’s arms just after posing for photos, prompting her to take her medicine and ensure she and Kris enjoyed the rest of their visit to the Cathedral and to Belfast.

Learn more about Medical Detection Dogs.

  • Addison’s Disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency and hypocortisolism, is a long-term endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones.