Dorothy Harris

Wildlife detector dog keeps busy

Recently I read how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a way to sniff out illegal wildlife in shipments at airports and docks. Following a 13-week course at the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center, specially-certified canines sniff out protected species. The dogs help prevent smuggling of rare fauna and will be used for air, rail and ocean cargo scanning. I was impressed about how amazing this was until it hit me that Sadie Girl, our Florida brown dog, does this all the time. Without weeks of intense skill building, she can sniff out a mole cricket from dozens of feet away. It's a form of cheap entertainment for us as we enjoy our evening walk. She will suddenly stop short, cock her head like a radar dish and rotate her ears honing in on exactly where the offending creature is buried. She then drags Mr. Harris right to the spot, stopping once more to fixate, then pounces like a fox, digging madly before squashing it. For variety, she sometimes plunges her nose into the hole she just excavated to crunch the creature between her front teeth. As you can imagine, this usually silences the buzzing but every once in a while she meets her match. She will get a sharp pinch on the nose, inciting her to dig furiously to uncover the nefarious critter, which she then kills by stomping on repeatedly. It's a riot and I often wonder what the neighbors must think of our carrying on. Those of you with showcase yards rest assured we do not allow her to dig in your yard, although I sometimes wonder if this wouldn't be a welcome service.
Her sniffer skills don't stop there though. She also is quite keen on rat removal. Recently she discovered a rat behind some building materials in the back of our yard and now every time she goes outside, her first stop is a rat check. I suspect she would be happy to capture one eventually but thus far she has not been able to scare them out. She dances all around in her doggy charades begging us to come use those things we call hands to move the dang boards so she can get to the rodents. She also likes to chase lizards, and lies in wait for the poor black racer which has sentenced itself to a short lifespan by residing under our porch. She has even caught a squirrel once while breaking up a melee between one of our cats and the tree rodent. Considering her extensive experiences and skill level, I suspect they would gladly welcome her to the detector dog academy. What I don't know is if they would be able to meet her daily living requirements. Somewhat of a dog pound diva, Sadie Girl's daily routine would be cramped by academy lifestyle. She prefers to lounge on the leather sectional for most of the day, moving onto the hardwood floor to cool off. A steady supply of biscuits and cat treats is expected, with special snacks prepared if the family is out of town for the day. She also has an affinity for fluffy blankets and pillows. Won't the other dogs howl if she shows up at academy with her blanket in tow? I can't help but wonder what sort of pay scale accompanies such a highly trained animal. It's a great fantasy to dream of additional income coming in, but then again, there's that darn commute to Miami every day. Maybe we should focus on mole cricket removal services instead.