I heard some exciting news recently.
Dogs are being trained to detect beetles. The brown marmorated stink bug to be exact, in a project at the University of New England in Armidale aimed at tracking down the agricultural pest.
Fifteen beagles are lining up to use their noses in the name of science.
Is there anything dogs can’t do?
Just this week, my cattle dog, marvellously untrained, managed to disperse the remains of a recently living chicken across the yard, separate the washing from the line and add another detailed scratched artwork to my driver’s side car door.
The smaller one hid undetected under the bed for 24 hours, no doubt depositing presents for us to find at a later date.
I am acutely aware that these incidents are of my making, not the dogs. As dog trainers, we make good office workers and farmers.
Around the world, other more skilled people are training canines to do incredible things – and most beautiful of all, the dogs appear to like doing them.
Police dogs help keep us safe by detecting dogs, bodies, firearms and explosives.
There are wildlife detection dogs. A while ago I met a dog who was trained to locate evidence of koalas, helping in the near impossible task of finding out whether the species is active in a certain area. Others have been trained to help conserve species like the spotted-tail quoll or the emu.
There are search and rescue dogs who can mean the difference between life and death for those who are lost.
Assist dogs make an incredible difference to those with a whole range of conditions. There are dogs that help with an amazing range of tasks, including taking the washing out of the machine, paying the cashier at the shops and opening the fridge.
And all of these things don’t take into account the best friend factor – the child with autism who has trouble making connections but now has someone whose ear they can whisper into and who will be there no matter what. There’s Phoebe who is part of a school community in Victoria helping children who have experienced severe trauma, and Greta the chocolate lab who is best mate to Graham who has dementia.
All of this without a union or minimum wage.
August 26 is Dog Day. Whether your pup is a washing-chewing mutt or worthy of the Nobel prize, it’s time to show them a little love. What would our lives be without them?