Meet the team at Scentdogs, a K-9 unit based in Berry Mills, N.B. Maska’s a drug detector and Ace is a personal bodyguard; both are rather imposing German shepherds. And then there’s Ekko, a fluffy Parson Russell terrier, who specializes in sniffing out bedbugs.
Why offer a bedbug detection service? “There wasn’t a lot of demand around here for drug dogs,” says owner Andrew Farago, 58, but infestations were on the rise, largely because people travel so frequently today, picking up bedbugs on the way (some exterminators now get up to 50 calls a week). After consulting with local trainer Bill Grimmer, Farago went looking for an addition to his team, a small dog who could “get behind furniture and sniff around.” Enter Ekko, now 2, the Maritimes’ first bedbug-sniffing dog.
Farago taught Ekko himself, obtaining some live bedbugs from a pest control service, and training the dog on their scent “in my own house, and in my mother-in-law’s, much to her chagrin.” Using a dog offers several advantages, Farago explains: while an exterminator might take several hours to inspect a three-bedroom home, and “have the couch turned upside down, and be in there with his CSI light,” Ekko can do the job in about 20 minutes—without flipping the furniture. Ekko can even inspect a 100-room hotel, Farago says, in a day and a half.
But dogs aren’t the perfect solution, says Dave Holland of Braemar Pest Management Services in Bedford, N.S., who calls himself an “exterminator extraordinaire.” Some dogs have trouble reaching out-of-the-way places, like ceilings and curtains, Holland says; and while they can find bugs, they can’t get rid of them. Clients have to hire an exterminator for that, which can cost $250 and up.
And though Ekko’s probably cuter than most exterminators, people should resist the urge to pat him, says Farago—he is, after all, a working dog first and foremost.