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The Green Life: A Dog That Sniffs Out Pollution

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August 20, 2009

A Dog That Sniffs Out Pollution

Sniffing out pollution Authorities usually drop trackable dye tests into toilets when they’re looking for the faulty septic connections that leave human sewage and detergents floating where they shouldn’t. But several counties in Michigan instead use a German shepherd mix named Sable, the New York Times reported yesterday. The dog sniffs out the source of pollution with 87 percent accuracy.

Owner Scott Reynolds adopted Sable from a shelter. A former K-9 unit police officer, Reynolds trained Sable by having him sniff human sewage, detergents and animal feces, then rewarding the dog for barking at the correct scent. The dog has blood work done regularly to make sure that he isn't being adversely affected by the work, and gets a daily bath to make sure he doesn't stink like what he sniffs.

The canine strategy to sniffing out pollution has gotten attention from cities in New England, some of which are considering employing the dog to clean up their own water. And a trend just might be in the making: Though Sable is currently employed by environmental-consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech, Reynolds is starting a business based on Sable’s talents. He already has a group of new sniffers in training.

--Sarah F. Kessler

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