Most of us think of our dogs as companions, members of the family, and – above all – as friends. But many dogs are employed in a working capacity, helping people in need or achieving things that humans are not equipped for, such as sniffing out missing people or accessing difficult locations.
Service dogs for the blind or deaf, security dogs and sheepdogs have been helping humans live their lives safely and comfortably for years, but some four-legged friends today carry out more unusual and unique tasks. Here is our selection of the five most unique jobs dogs carry out across the world.
1. Tucker the Whale-Watcher
Image Courtesy of: The Dogington Post
The Orca, or ‘Killer Whale’, is a majestic member of the oceanic dolphin family. It’s also under threat of extinction. Key to ensuring the survival of the species is the tracking of the orcas’ movements, in conjunction with monitoring their diet and health. The easiest, safest and least intrusive way to do this – unfortunately for marine biologists – is by collecting feces. Examining a killer whale’s feces allows scientists to understand more about the stability of the species, but finding it can be almost as difficult as finding the animals themselves.
According to The Wall Street Journal, that’s where dogs like rescued Black Lab Tucker come in. This incredible dog, along with his 16 canine colleagues, sets out to sea at the side of his human handlers and sniffs out the all-important orca poo. Carefully trained to recognize the scent, Tucker can signal the presence of a killer whale from up to a nautical mile away, far beyond the reach of a human’s own nose. The team is then able to collect samples, and analyze the material for clues on how the orca population is doing. As part of the University of Washington’s Conservation Canines scheme, Tucker is also a fully-fledged sniffer of moose, woodland caribou, white-tailed deer, wolves, iguana, bats and sharp-tailed snake feces. Their mighty sense of smell means that this pup and his pals are helping in the fight for the survival of their fellow animals.
2. Daisy the Anti-Cancer Labrador
Detecting cancer in human patients using a dog’s sense of smell sounds like the stuff of science fiction or an urban myth, but in fact it has been shown to be highly successful. One report in 2006 found a 99% accuracy in detecting lung cancer using dogs, and a number of other studies have reached similar conclusions.
While the jury is still out among the medical community, one dog who champions the method is 11-year-old Labrador, Daisy, from England. According to the Bark Post, in an astonishing career, Daisy has detected in excess of 550 cases of cancer in humans. Last year she was also awarded the Blue Cross Medal by HRH Prince Charles.
Daisy went on to save the life of somebody even closer to home, when she sniffed out breast cancer in her owner, Dr. Claire Guest. The dog’s owner and trainer, who is also the Chief Executive of the British charity Medical Detection Dogs, must feel very fortunate to have such a talented friend.
3. Columbia’s Special Forces Parachuters
It may sound like something taken from the plot of a children’s TV show, but in the Columbian Air Force’s elite rescue team parachuting dogs are far from fiction – that’s according to CCTV America. Like elsewhere in the world, the team use dogs to help track and recover people in trouble. But with such a rocky terrain, large parts of the country are inaccessible by land, meaning that the rescue workers – and their canine counterparts – must be flown in by air.
Strapped to an expert parachuter, dogs such as four-year-old Belgian Malinois Rouse hurtle from the plane to locate and save lost or injured people. Rouse’s skydiving partner, Deputy Chief Carlos Pineros, says that their dogs get just as nervous as any human would. Nevertheless, they fearlessly take the plunge day after day, to ensure the safe return of those in trouble.
4. Lila the Deep Sea Diver
In South Florida, snorkelling and diving are commonplace. Everybody’s doing it, and why wouldn’t they? But what takes some visitors by surprise is Lila, a local dog who swims a little deeper than most.
Owner Alex Schulze has trained Lila, along with his other dog Maverick, to plunge to the seabed and catch… lobsters! This extraordinary pair find and catch whole lobsters, bringing them back to the surface. Schulze told Local10: “It took me about two years to train them fully to catch lobsters. The hardest part for the dogs was to train them to use their back legs and get their momentum to go down.”
But for Schulze, this is about more than just a quirky hobby and a fresh seafood dinner. The dogs are used to promote his business, Devocean (short for devotion to the ocean), which donates 20% of its net profits to sea turtle conservation schemes. So, with their owner’s help and impressive training, these two pups are helping to keep turtles and other sea life swimming.
5. The Pups Helping Children Deal with Trauma
The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 marked a dark chapter in American history. The events of that day will never be forgotten, but — for those children who lived through the attack — animals have played a part in the recovery and rehabilitation process.
According to National Geographic, shortly after the horrific events of December 14, Tim Hetzner of the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K9 Comfort Dogs team traveled to Newtown with his nine specially-trained ‘therapy dogs’, who were introduced to the children. What happened next was extraordinary.
One little girl who hadn’t spoken to her mother since the incident suddenly opened up after petting one of the golden Labradors. A boy who had been silent to his teachers and the police happily talked to the dogs about how events unfolded in his classroom. Groups of apprehensive teenagers sat on the floor petting the same animal, and began to talk about their fear, their pain and their grief.
While the idea of confiding in an animal may sound strange, closer examination shows dogs to be the perfect counselors. As Hetzner explains, “They have excellent listening skills, and they demonstrate unconditional love. They don’t judge you or talk back.” This silent indifference — combined with the human tendency to find comfort in soft, fluffy pets — means that dogs are a powerful tool for helping children who have suffered psychologically-troubling experiences.
So, the next time you see a dog, consider the remarkable things animals like them are doing every day – from limiting the effects of cancer, to giving young children the tools they need to develop and recover from difficult times. Perhaps a working dog will help you one day.