C.C. hesitates at the entrance to the apartment. Cautiously, she trots the perimeter of the room. She pokes her head in a closet, sniffs several pairs of shoes and pauses in front of the couch. Rooting between the cushions, she discovers a vial of reddish-brown critters.
"Good girl," says Tony Haigh, patting her head. He takes the vial and feeds the yellow lab mix a treat from the palm of his hand.
This is a test; this is only a test. C.C. is trained to sniff out bedbugs, pin-sized parasites found wherever people reside, as well as on their laundry, furniture, and in the crevices of their mattresses. Bedbugs become active at night and are attracted to the warmth and the carbon dioxide emitted when their hosts exhale. They range in size from a couple grains of salt to an apple seed, and look like a cross between a cockroach and a tick, Haigh said, following the insects in the test vial with the beam of a flashlight.
To find bedbugs, dogs need daily practice, or they'll lose their effectiveness.
C.C. signifies the presence of bedbugs by sitting in her place and gesturing with her nose.
For that, Haigh gives her a treat. "She never gets food for no reason," he said.
Food is not the dog's sole motivation. By telling her handler where the bedbugs are, she performs as part of the pack, and earns her keep, Haigh added.
"I can do a detection in two minutes in an area of this size,"