Pup's nose like no other
Super-sleuth dog sniffs out moulds that make us sick
See Flip and Betty play. See Betty throw the ball. Run, Flip! Run!
But Flip is not running.
Flip has found some toxic stachybotrys, hidden and growing under
the floor boards of Betty's new home.
Run, Betty! Run!
Over the years, we've grown used to highly trained canines sniffing
out arson and bombs and drugs. Now there's a new super-sleuth canine
with a wet nose.
The Mould Dog.
Quincy, a two-year-old yellow lab, was dropped off at a Florida
humane society shelter more than a year ago. The pup was unwanted and
Today, she's become Canada's first mould-detecting pooch -- a
$20,000 panting marvel of genetics and training, which can pinpoint
toxic moulds in schools, businesses and private homes.
"She's like any other dog -- she just has a very unusual day
job," says Quincy's handler, Frank Haverkate, who runs Haverkate
and Associates Inc., a Toronto indoor, environmental testing firm.
As her master talks, Quincy sprawls out on a hardwood floor at my
feet. Occasionally, she sniffs the air -- as if my shoes might contain
a health threat.
Quincy is to mould what Lassie was to kids who would fall down
wells in the '60s.
A decade ago, the only mould any of us took seriously was forming
on bread we grabbed to make toast.
SICK AT HOME
In recent years, the hidden fungi has had the power to close an
entire criminal court in Newmarket, as well as cause a crisis in
school portables in the province.
Mould is also big business, as homeowners and office managers try
to find out why those under their roof have become sick of staying
It's not anthrax North American offices are testing for right now
-- it's Sick Building Syndrome.
An estimated 40 million people in Canada and the U.S. annually
suffer from asthma, headaches, fatigue, depression, rashes and chronic
flu-like symptoms, after spending their days sucking up moulds,
pollutants and poisons coughed up by the walls around them. To
traditionally help track down the hiding biological vermin, Haverkate
would largely count on a $30,000 air-testing kit -- precise and
complicated tools which sit in a nearby case.
The devices are accurate, but can't specifically point out exact
spots -- hidden behind walls or under floors or even in ceilings --
where mould has moved in. That's what Quincy does -- for a pat and a
"She's used to find hidden issues," says Haverkate, as he
leans down to Quincy, who started her work earlier this month after
being saved from the humane society, and trained at the Florida Canine
The facility has traditionally trained drug and arson dogs for
"To us, it's a health concern. To her, it's a game of
hide-and-seek," says Haverkate.
"And she's happiest when she's playing."
For homeowners, it's no game. In fact, none of Haverkate's
residential clients wanted in tow when Quincy and Haverkate were
making their rounds. So, instead, Quincy plays K9 P.I. in his master's
own home, a 1960s Toronto bungalow.
From a sniff of a single drop of urine, the average dog can
identify another canine's sex, health, diet, emotional state and even
if it's dominant or submissive.
Researchers believe they sense smells as three dimensional odour
models -- an image that's better than a photograph for a human.
So Quincy -- after more than 1,000 hours of training -- has little
trouble tracking down, and sitting, when she comes to two different
suspect locations in Haverkate's own home. One is in the kitchen, near
a place where a pipe once burst. The other is on the other side of a
garage, that may have had some moisture problems.
A trained arson dog can track a single drop of gasoline in the
equivalent of a swimming pool of water. In all, Quincy can doggedly
track down 18 species of toxic moulds.
Back in our early readers, Betty could only have wished Flip was