Dogs Saving Nature

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Tucker working to save orca whales in the Pacific Northwest.

Humans and dogs share an inseparable bond; they are our best friends forever.

Last year in Mullumbimby, Australia, I covered a story on a special dog helping to save koalas.

Maya, a border collie cross on death row, was rescued from the RSPCA, and now she finds koalas before developers can destroy their habitat. It’s a high-stakes race and this four-legged rock star of a dog is saving nature in Queensland and New South Wales, 200 times faster than humans can.

Maya is the world’s first koala sniffer dog, and when she smells koala scat, wild forests are spared from the axe.

In America, we also have some very special dogs helping to save nature now.

Tucker is a Labrador Retriever who does not like water. Although he lives in the Pacific Northwest and is accustomed to rain, he is not keen on getting in the water because his nose is a finely tuned sniffing organ, and he’s been gifted with the ability to sniff orca scat.

Tucker is helping to protect the endangered Pacific Northwest orcas.

Tucker is one of 17 conservation canines (or C-K9 dogs) at the University of Washington, Center of Conservation Biology.

Tucker sniffs whale feces from the deck of a small research boat along the eastern and southern shores of Canada’s Vancouver Island.

Conservation canines are used to track dozens of threatened and endangered species, including spotted owls, cougars, caribou, Iberian wolves, tigers and giant armadillos, by sniffing their scat.

These experienced dogs can identify scat from more than 13 separate species. This extraordinary gift is not breed specific. Instead, the center has retrievers, Australian cattle dogs, pointers, shepherd mixes and even a chihuahua mix.

These dogs have three things in common: high energy, crazy for playing ball and skilled at operating with their human handlers who live, work and play with their dogs 24/7.

These remarkable dogs can pick up the most minuscule trace of scent from beneath feet of snow or floating at a distance in the water.

When the dogs find these sought-after scents on land or water, they get rewarded. These canines work tirelessly to get their scents because they want to play with their ball (the reward). It is just one big game for them.

They share one other commonality: they are rescue dogs, some from death row. Because these tremendous dogs have been given life, we have the privilege of loving and being loved by them.

Ladies and gentlemen, we all need more love.

Please give the gift of life by supporting a local animal shelter.

Earth Dr. Reese Halter is the author of “The Insatiable Bark Beetle.”