2007-03-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

The canine nose knows. A search dog found the missing Boy Scout in a Carolina woods last week. We use our best friends' super sensitive snouts to sniff out bombs, food contraband, drugs, certain cancers, and now pirated DVDs. The world's only dog DVD detectives- a pair of female black Labs- are on loan this month to Malaysia, one of the Asian nations that cost Hollywood $1.2 billion in illegal music and movies in 2006.

The Motion Picture Association of America paid the dogs' tuition. It took nine months and about $17,000 to train the Labs to find polycarbonates, the chemical used in disc manufacturing. The investment seems to be cost effective and efficient. At a demo in Malaysia, "Flo" and "Lucky" sniffed through a pile of 50 sealed packages in air cargo. It took the dog duo only 10 minutes to go through boxes that security officers would have needed a day for.

Voil√°- the Labs came up with a smuggled, pirated box set of the entire season of "Friends". Rachel, Ross and Phoebe would be so impressed. However, Malaysia is yet to decide whether to employ its own dogs even though over 5 million pirated discs were seized there in 2,000 raids last year.

"Flo" and "Lucky" have been trained to detect the unique smell of the compact disc, but they cannot distinguish the bona fide from the bogus. Right now they alert to any CD. More work is needed to refine the DVD dogs' detection skills. The goal is that they may someday be able to direct authorities to large stashes of concealed, illegally copied movies.

On this bona fide/bogus differentiation, I ran into an historical parallel when sidetracked searching for the Babylon Westminster clubhouse. Babylon's earliest weekly-The South Side Signal (1869-1921) was a juicy journal. It contained local news plus gems from around the world. The Oct. 11, 1879 Signal microfilm tells of a "Learned Poodle": Here's his tale:

"Once an expert in Paris, finding it impossible to convince people that he was right and the

          Pumba, Sharpei 
            mix, left and Narley, silver tabby. 
    Pumba, Sharpei mix, left and Narley, silver tabby. public was wrong, taught a poodle to identify a true antique coin and differentiate it from othe bogus coins. A dealer would bring coins for sale. Their false character would be stated at once, but when the sellers were disputative the expert would say: "My poodle can tell you without the least trouble which coin or coins are false."

The poodle would be introduced. The money would be placed on the table, the good with the bad, and after nosing them for an instant the dog would knock off the table all the bad pieces. Of course this trait of canine sagacity was convincing. The man's knowledge was but secondary

to that of the dog, and the party with false coins would go away perfectly satisfied.

The fame of the dog extended over many countries. There was even the possibility that the poodle would be elected an honorary member of several learned societies. People would come with coins asking for the expert, and when he was absent would say: "Well, if the master is out, pray let the dog look at them. We will be quite satisfied with his judgment."

The trick was quite simple. The numismatist took care to handle the bad coins and not to touch the authentic pieces. The dog's fine sense of smell at once distinguished the pieces his master's fingers touched, and he unhesitatingly separated the bad coins from the good ones."

The canine nose knows. Proof here in 2 cases over a hundred years apart. Our dogs can sniff 'em out but they still have trouble separating the good, the bad and the ugly. That's why, upon discovery, the faithful Bloodhound will lick the little lost boy but also slobber the cowering criminal.

... Babylon Town Shelter has bragging rights in the talented canine nose department too. Last fall "Tarzan", a high drive German Shepherd stray at Babylon went to BrightStar Shepherd Rescue in Rochester, thanks to ACO Kristin Siarkowicz. He was adopted as a pet by a police officer upstate. Renamed "Trace" (for "trace evidence"), the Babylon alumnus will begin training as her cadaver dog partner soon.


Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677- 5784) Miller Pl. Syosset has more cats available right now than dogs. Soon the many adult cats will be in competition for homes with the influx of kitten season. "Narley" #148, an outgoing silver tabby shows off for visitors. "Pumba" #144, a shy Sharpei mix, is under a year old. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.

+Female: a soprano Beagle #169; "Girl"- a brindle Pit mix.

+Male: 2 orange tabby brothers #173-174- abandoned in an apartment.

LOST DOG: cream Maltese/ Poodle mix in Lindenhurst, off Rt. 109. If spotted, please call (631)412-5320 or (631)838-8503.

For the latest on the Menu Pet food Recall: consult the American Veterinary Medical Assoc.- w w w . a v m a . o r g / a a / menufoodsrecall/default.asp.

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