Tag Archives: pests

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)

The rat-hunting dogs of New York City

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They are respectable pets by day — upstanding AKC members, dog show winners, a therapy dog and even an actor among them.

At night, though, about once a week, they hit the grimy streets and trash-filled alleys of New York — terriers and dachshunds, along with their owners — tracking, cornering, capturing and killing rats.

You can call them superheroes, you can call them vigilantes, you can call them (as PETA has) participants in a “twisted blood sport.”

For its part, the The Ryder’s Alley Trencher-fed Society, or RATS, describes itself as a group of New York dog owners who are simply letting their dogs pursue what has been bred into them.

“Terriers have an innate sense to do this, it’s in their genes,” said Richard Reynolds, who founded the group. It has been around more than 25 years, and has its own Facebook page.

The group goes out as often as possible, sometimes invited to problem areas by citizens, sometimes responding to informal requests from city officials, The New York Post reported last week. The service is provided for free.

As the dog owners see it, they are giving their dogs a chance to fulfill what they were born to do.

“They think hunting is just fabulous,” Dr. Trudy Kawami, who started taking her wire-haired dachshunds to Prospect Park 30 years ago to sniff out rodents with the group, told

rats1The dogs are trained to kill rats by shaking them until their necks break. Despite that, it can get pretty bloody, observers say.

Usually, about eight dogs take part in the hunt. The dachshunds tend to go into closed areas and flush rats out of garbage bags, while the larger terriers seem more interested in the actual attack.

Reynolds told The Post that half the dogs are show champions, one is a therapy dog and another has a role in the film “Five Flights Up,” alongside Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman.

There is always a veterinary technician present, since rat bites are common.

“It’s all about keeping happy, healthy working dogs, and as long as we do that, everything is fine,” Reynolds said.

(Photos: RATS Facebook page)

Tick tock: Bloodsucking parasite found on mummified, nearly 3,000-year-old, dog

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A discovery at an ancient dog burial ground in Egypt proves, archaeologically, what history has already recorded — ticks have been around for a loooooong time.

At least one of the well-preserved parasites was found in a mummified dog’s right ear.

According to LiveScience.com, it’s the the first archaeological evidence of bloodsucking parasites plaguing dogs as far back as the era of Roman rule in Egypt.

French archaeologists found the infested dog mummy while studying hundreds of mummified dogs at the excavation site of El Deir in Egypt, known as the Dog Catacombs, during expeditions in 2010 and 2011.

The parasites included the common brown tick and louse fly.

“Although the presence of parasites, as well as ectoparasite-borne diseases, in ancient times was already suspected from the writings of the major Greek and Latin scholars, these facts were not archaeologically proven until now,” said Jean-Bernard Huchet, an archaeoentomologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

The Dog Catacombs date to 747-730 B.C., and are dedicated to the Anubis, the Egyptians’ jackal-headed god of the dead.

They were first documented in the 19th century, but weren’t fully excavated until 2011 when a team led by Paul Nicholson, an archaeologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, started examining the tunnels and their contents.

It’s estimated the catacombs contain the remains of 8 million animals, mostly dogs and jackals.

Many appear to have been only hours or days old when they were killed and mummified. 

The Dog Catacombs are located at Saqqara, the burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis.