Ask a Terrier: Wake Up and Smell the COVID!
Am I to understand that dogs are being trained to sniff out COVID-19? Has anyone explained this to the dogs? While there is no evidence that dogs can catch and spread the virus, this begs the question: Is there evidence that dogs can catch and spread the virus?
How far along is this research? Who’s conducting it? Are the brave trainees being rewarded with more than a click and a treat? Maybe a steak sandwich?
Please post your thoughts soon. Better yet, call me, since I try not to touch the computer keyboard. Or anything else.
Jason in the Basement Behind the Furnace Under a Plastic Tarp
Dear J. Bbfupt,
You’re referring, I’m sure, to the recent pilot study at the University of Helsinki in which Finnish scientists are deploying a randomized, double-blind study to determine if canines can scent a specific olfactory signature of the novel coronavirus in the effluvium of test subjects’ secretions.
Like many of my readers, I was unclear on a couple of these concepts, such as Helsinki, Finnish, deploy, randomized, double-blind, scent, olfactory, novel, effluvium, test subjects, secretions, and Bbfupt.
However, my unpaid college intern Per Se is majoring in reading with a minor in several interesting numbers. He prepared a concise presentation to explain this study using hand puppets, some of which I chewed up because, sadly, they contained squeakers.
As I understand it, certain diseases in Giants present a specific olfactory signature (SQUEAK-y!)…a specific olfactory signature that trained dogs (SQUEAK-y! Squeak-SQUEAK-y!)…trained dogs can sniff out with amazing accuracy.
Canines’ ability to smell is millions of times better than Giants. Some diseases present certain volatile organic compounds. Trained dogs can detect those subtle VOCs in patients’ blood, saliva, and urine.
These are a few of my favorite things!
The Finnish study indicates that COVID-19 might also give off VOCs that can be detected by dogs trained as medical diagnostic assistants, yet denied those cool white lab coats. With little difficulty, trainee dogs were able to distinguish between urine samples from COVID-19 patients and healthy subjects.
No surprise here. We’re very practiced with the pee.
Scientists worldwide are furthering these tests by deploying their own randomized, double-blind studies—a process by which trainee dogs are blindfolded, researchers are blindfolded, then they all stumble around the laboratory bumping into expensive equipment and breaking glassware until Science happens!
To hasten results, I conducted my own field tests. In an actual field, that being the dog park.
BUDLEIGH: “OK, everyone! Take a last drink at the water bowl, then bring your sticks and tennis balls over here so we can get started.”
BRISBY THE SCHNOODLE (Budleigh’s co-dog): “I know him! Hi, Budleigh!”
BUDLEIGH: “We’ve a guest lecturer today who’ll be discussing how he trained to smell the pandemic.”
BRISBY: “You go, Budleigh! (Whispers excitedly) Budleigh’s my roomie!”
BUDLEIGH: “From the University of Helsinki, let me introduce…Bleu. Did I pronounce that right? ‘Bleu?’”
BLOODHOUND: “Just ‘Blue.’”
BUDLEIGH: “Let’s give Blue a warm dog park welcome!”
(Barks, howls, some tennis ball shaking.)
BLOODHOUND: “Thank you! So, I get to smell pee. Sometimes the Science Giant gives me a cookie. I’ll take questions now.”
CAIRN TERRIER: “I thought your name was COVID.”
BLOODHOUND: “No, it’s Blue. COVID is the pandemic.”
CAIRN TERRIER: “So you’re not 19?”
BLOODHOUND: “I’m two.”
CAIRN TERRIER: (Muttering) “I’ve gotta read the brochures better.”
GREYHOUND: “Where do you keep Helsinki? Can I run there?”
BLOODHOUND: “Well, I was in a box the whole way here. But I think it’s pretty far.”
GREYHOUND: “OK! Never mind.” (Curls up, falls asleep.)
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “I’m a Retriever. I retrieve. Do you bleed?”
BLOODHOUND: “No, I smell. Professionally.”
BRITISH BULLDOG: “So, this COVID? Bet it smells like chicken!”
PORTUGUESE WATER DOG: “You say everything smells like chicken.”
BRITISH BULLDOG: “And you drink too much water! That can’t be healthy.”
PORTUGUESE WATER DOG: “What’s with your face?”
BRITISH BULLDOG: “It’s supposed to look like this! I’m British!”
PORTUGUESE WATER DOG: “Well, I’m part Portuguese, part water! Do we have a problem?”
(Barks, howls, more tennis ball shaking.)
BLOODHOUND: “If there are no more questions, can I have my check?”
Had enough of Budleigh and his Giants? No? Then check out our new book, Sleeping between Giants, Book I: Budleigh, the Early Year.