The tenants had a problem.
So did the homeowners.
The tenants returned from a European vacation, didn't notice some parasitic hitchhikers had latched on to their luggage, and brought them into the suburban home they've rented for several years.
They notified the owners and apologized for the infestation. They began an aggressive campaign to get rid of the critters and initially found themselves overmatched.
The bugs are so small -- about the size of an apple seed -- and their eggs even smaller -- think pinhead -- that they are hard to find.
The bugs had no problems finding the tenants. The couple knew they had a problem when they woke up with what they described as super-size mosquito bites. Bedbugs don't spread disease, but they can raise welts.
The tenants went online and learned that bedbugs feed on human blood every few days, that females can lay up to five eggs per day, and that they can survive without feeding for 12 to 18 months.
They learned never to place a suitcase on a hotel floor or bed -- a dresser, closet shelf or even a bathtub is a better place -- and, when they return home, to shake out their clothes outside and to closely inspect the suitcase, clothing and shoes.
They also learned there has been a resurgence of the Cimex lectularius -- Latin for "bug of the bed."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last summer said there had been an "alarming resurgence" of bedbugs in recent years. National pest control companies report an almost 300 percent increase in bedbug calls since 2005.
Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department, said the department had received numerous calls. "They're a real nightmare," he said.
The department has a guidebook, "Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely," to help people avoid infestations and encourage them to take immediate action when they occur.
The tenants contacted pest control companies and received bids in the thousands of dollars. Their adult children offered to help them go after the bugs with steam and a chemical powder. The homeowners agreed to let them try to eradicate the crawling nuisances.
Because the tenants planned to move to the Southwest after Christmas holidays, they got rid of a lot of stuff by double-bagging it and putting it out for garbage collection.
The homeowners wanted to make sure the bugs were gone and contacted me. They asked about a company that uses dogs to detect live bedbugs and their eggs. I said I'd like to see how that's done and promised them anonymity.
That's how I met Dino, a tail-wagging beagle, and his owner, Jason Webeck, president of Good Night, Sleep Tight, a bedbug-detection company in Eighty Four in Washington County. Coleen Czyzewski, vice president of sales and operations, accompanied them.
They arrived in an unmarked car last week, carried "Inspector" Dino in his portable kennel into the empty three-bedroom house, greeted the homeowners and got right to work. They headed for the first bedroom.
Dino found nothing in the bedrooms, where the tenants had removed the wall-to-wall carpeting, padding and tack strips. So far, so good. There was nothing in the family room or the living room, where the carpets and pads also had been removed.
I was just about to ask Mr. Webeck how Dino responded when he finds bedbugs when the dog jumped so high that he appeared to be part kangaroo. Something was in a half-full garbage bag on the bare dining room floor.
The homeowners looked dismayed. Mr. Webeck smiled and retrieved a small capped glass vial that contained three live bedbugs and several eggs. Neither the homeowners nor I saw him put the test vial there. The homeowners were relieved and marveled at Dino's talented nostrils -- he found no other bedbugs in the house.
They gave Mr. Webeck a check for $250 and said the peace of mind from his house call "was worth every penny."
Mr. Webeck, 32, a dog lover since childhood, trains and handles dogs for the Search, Rescue and Recovery Team of the East Beth Volunteer Fire Company in Fredericktown, Washington County. He and Dino met at the J&K Canine Academy in High Springs, Fla. They are certified by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association.
When it comes time to feed his bedbugs, Mr. Webeck lets them feast on him.
Lawrence Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and 412-263-1895. Please include your day, evening and/or cell phone number(s). Due to volume, he cannot respond to every e-mail and phone call.