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I saw on television recently a news story about a woman (a veteran) who used to train military dogs as bomb and drug sniffers and has taken her talents into civilian life. It began when she was in hospital in Vancouver for treatment and while there, contracted C Difficile, the dangerous infection that is common in hospitals. She had heard of dogs who can sniff out seizures, diabetes, and even cancer. So she began training her own dog to sniff out C Difficile. The dog was so successful at it that he received certification and began working in the hospital to let them know which rooms contained the deadly bacteria. When Dr. Dog identifies the ‘dirty’ rooms, the cleaners go to work to sterilize everything, thus saving patients not yet afflicted with C Difficile. She has trained a whole group of dogs and other hospitals are hiring them…giving them the prestige, one supposes, of the title ‘Dr. Dog’.

Research continues elsewhere, including near London, England to find out other ways dog’s noses can be used to detect things like prostate cancer. Dogs are indeed incredible in the ways they help mankind. Their noses (and although I’m terrible with statistics, I believe their noses are thousands of times more accurate than ours. Anyone who has had a dog aim for their crotch as a greeting knows whereof I speak! I personally prefer to carry around things like cheese bits to stave off this overly personal ‘hello’– figuring that my hand is higher than my crotch!) I’m sure, for my dogs and now grandpuppies, I must smell like the market cheese lady, sine they run into my kitchen every time they see (smell) me. There are worse greetings!

Having had dogs all my life, I was well aware of the extraordinary powers  of the dog nose — especially when L’il Sis had beagles– first Wilbur and then The Pig.I was actually surprised to see that the veteran lady was training other breeds, not necessarily beagles. Beagles are known, of course, in the airports and train stations of the world, sniffing out illegal drugs. Since Gill travels so much, using both of those methods, she always gets nervous when she spots a beagle…not that she might ever smell of weed…of course not. (You can imagine her reaction when L’il Sis first turned up with one of these ‘snitches’ as a  pet. I’m sure she wondered briefly, “Friend or foe?”)

We did learn, over our time with beagles, that their noses are without parallel. They seemed particularly adept at sniffing out chocolate — a substance poisonous to dogs. Many were the emergency trips to the vet to have a beagle stomach pumped. Or, when the vet was unavailable–usually on a holiday– the ‘do it yourself version’ of making them vomit to get the chocolate out of their systems. This involved lifting the reluctant patient into the family bathtub, L’il Sis donning wellie boots, and forcing hydrogen peroxide down the pet’s throat until it vomited up the offending chocolate. Sometimes it took a while, L’il Sis growing more panicky the longer it took. I was anxious for the dog…but just the tiniest bit flummoxed that the tub was the receptacle for all this vomit. Oh, well…better a recovered dog than a clean tub…I guess…

We also noted that our dogs, although they had wonderfully accurate senses of smell, weren’t in any way discriminating as to the smell — in the sense that they didn’t, the way humans do, find the awful, disgusting odors unpleasant. Or maybe their senses are just skewed. To them, any rotting carcass or pile of dog poop (theirs or someone else’s) apparently smelled so divine they had to roll in it and then share their new ‘Eau de Stink’ with us, their loving family. A gift not, I’m here to say, appreciated in the way they hoped.

So, having witnessed firsthand the many ways a dog’s smelling apparatus can irritate,anger, even disgust us humans, it is a wonderful thing to see them dedicate their ‘schnouts’ to helping mankind. Of course, your average domestic pet dog will still use its sense of smell for evil, not good.

 

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