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Boston museum will attempt to fight art-damaging bugs with a Weimaraner

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is training a dog to sniff out pests that could damage artwork.

Riley, a three-month-old Weimaraner, would be the first dog trained specifically to detect moths and other pests that could damage high-value artwork in a museum.

“It’s really a trial, pilot project. We don’t know if he’s going to be good at it,” said Katie Getchell, the deputy director of the museum. “But it seems like a great idea to try.”

museumdogAfter Nicki Luongo, a museum employee who trains police dogs on her own time, got Riley as a family pet, discussions began on whether she might be able to train him to detect damaging insects that tend to eat through textiles and wood.

My money’s on Riley, because dogs have proven time and again that their noses can sniff out almost anything — from cadavers to cancers, explosives to bed bugs, turtle eggs to ants.

Most museums take steps to prevent pests from threatening artwork, including quarantining any new works. Still, moths and other bugs sneak in, occasionally hitching a ride on a visitor’s coat, the New York Times reported.

Riley will be trained to learn specific bugs’ scents, and alert his handlers by sitting in front of an artwork when he detects them. At that point, museum staff would more closely inspect the artwork.

If Riley is successful, museum officials say they would share what they’ve learned with other museums and organizations that need to protect textiles, Getchell said.

Riley was presented with his own museum photo ID badge last week, according to CBS in Boston.

Riley would do his detecting after hours.

(Photo: Boston Museum of Fine Arts)