One hundred first-grade students shrieked with delight when a detection dog named Dino bounded out of his crate and sniffed their backpacks.
Was the little beagle searching for drugs or weapons? Nope. When owner/handler Jason Webeck told Dino to "go find your Bs," he was telling him to look for bedbugs.
Dino's tail wagged furiously as he sniffed 11 bags at Bentworth Elementary School in Bentleyville, Washington County. He doubled back to a backpack in the middle of the row, wagged and made a digging motion, which is how he alerts to live bedbugs. His reward was praise and food from Mr. Webeck. Then Dino got to play with students.
Don't worry, parents. The Bentworth school is not bug-infested. Mr. Webeck cultivates a tightly capped tube of live bedbugs for Dino's daily training sessions. He hid the tube in one of the backpacks.
But Dino does find "Bs" at private homes, college dorms, motels and offices. Mr. Webeck won't name customers because discretion, not surprisingly, is a big thing in the bedbug detection business.
Mr. Webeck explained to students that Dino works for his business, which is called "Good Night Sleep Tight."
"And don't let the bedbugs bite!" said one little boy in the front row. Apparently people are still reciting that little ditty, which I've always thought is a creepy bedtime send-off.
"We're going to a private home tomorrow," said Mr. Webeck, who also works as a funeral director in Beallsville and Fredericktown. "The family just got back from Florida vacation, and they've got itchy bites."
Bedbugs live off human blood.
Dino doesn't get rid of bedbugs; he just finds them. An exterminator has to be called in. Even the nicest and cleanest homes and hotels can have them. Bedbugs move from place to place when they hitch a "ride" on clothes, bedding, luggage and backpacks, according to information on the www.sleeptightllc.biz website.
Because a newly hatched bedbug is the size of a poppy seed, they are hard to see. Dogs with their keen sense of smell can be trained to find them before the bugs reproduce and bite people.
This business has been good for Dino, who is only about 18 months old. The company that trained him, J & K Canine in High Springs, Fla., rescued him from a shelter.
Bedbugs are a growing problem, according to federal and county officials who were quoted in an April 24, 2009, story by my co-worker David Templeton. You can find that story and much more about bedbug-sniffing dogs at www.post-gazette.com.
Congratulations and thanks to good-hearted dog lovers who have saved the life of a dog. Sebastian will have his first hip replacement surgery on July 7. His second hip will be replaced in September or October.
Hundreds of people gave donations totaling more than $13,000 for the 91-pound dogue de Bordeaux who works for Three Rivers Family Hospice Inc.
Although he just had his first birthday on May 22, Sebastian is crippled because he was born with severe hip dysplasia. Walking is painful. Standing and sitting have become increasingly difficult. Without, surgery he would have to be euthanized.
The wrinkle-faced mastiff visits hospitals, nursing homes and schools with Laura Sokolovic, the hospice director of public relations and pet therapy. For the full story, go to www.help-sebastian.org.
Anastasia, a Rottweiler that is another of Ms. Sokolovic's therapy dogs, will be one of the "attractions" at the second annual Paws to Remember event in Whitehall June 12. Dead pets will be memorialized and living pets will be blessed.
The event is free, but donations will go to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society's Fallen Timber shelter in Elizabeth and Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Washington County.
Last year, more than 300 people brought pets and donated $700. The event is sponsored by the John F. Slater Funeral Home in Brentwood. Activities include demonstrations by therapy dogs and police K9 dogs, veterinarians answering questions, vendors selling pet products, games for pets and giveaways for children.
Also on hand will be shelter dogs available for adoption.
Paws to Remember will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rolling Hills Park on Doverdell Drive in Whitehall. The small park is across the road from Caste Village Shopping Center and next to the Baldwin Community United Methodist Church.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064.