By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO COURTESY RUTH LLANO
Scent hounds like beagles are the dog of choice for sniffing out bed bugs, second only to Blood Hounds in the overall number of scent receptors.
Like people, dogs need mental stimulation and even meaningful work and one West Island beagle has earned herself and her owner a unique and useful career – sniffing out bed bugs.
“She and her sister were abandoned in a desert in California, probably because they were smaller than the usual beagles,” said Beaconsfield resident Ruth LLano. The puppies were found by a canine scent detection expert who began the process of imprinting the scent of bed bugs on the dogs’ newborn brains.
Two years prior, LLano witnessed what a friend had to deal with following a bed bug infestation. “It was a colossal disaster,” she said of the cost and disruption to her life. It was a ‘lightbulb’ moment when she saw the canine team come in to help find the bugs. LLano began conducting research and found a place in California that offered the specialized handler and dog training.
LLano flew down south to meet ‘Breeze’ the beagle in December of 2019 and to undergo training and certification.
“Breeze had just turned one year old at the time and already knew her job very well,” said LLano. “I was the one who needed the training.”
LLano began her training at Bedbug K9s Services with about a dozen dogs but was singled out by Breeze to be her handler and the pair quickly developed a close bond. Following the intense training session, the duo flew home to Montreal later that month.
“It was the perfect time to build upon our bond,” LLano said of the time spent together as the pandemic began to spread ushering in our first extended lockdown period.
Though perhaps not the ideal time to start a company, LLano launched Sniff911MTL, in which she and Breeze will come to your home and Breeze’s super scent detection abilities will let you know if, and where, the little critters are hiding out.
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Ruth LLano and her beagle buddy Breeze during some downtime from their day job of sniffing out bed bugs.
While bed bugs had previously been virtually gone for decades thanks to potent insecticides, they made a comeback in the late 1990s.The reasons aren’t completely clear, though the banning of many pesticide ingredients coupled with an increase in world travel were largely believed to contribute to their renewed presence. They’ve turned up everywhere from cruise ships, hotels, and even movie theatres and public transport.
Though there’s still a creepy stigma attached to a bed bug infestation, the truth is it can happen to anyone. While cockroaches and flies feed on filth, bed bugs feed only on blood. The fact that they don’t carry or spread disease does little, however, to mitigate the ick factor.
LLano says her business helping people deal with an unwanted infestation is rewarding.
“Other than finding bed bugs for clients, we help educate people on all the different forms of treatment available to eradicate the problem as swiftly as possible,” she said. “Left untreated, this small problem can very quickly become an infestation, making it much harder and longer to treat, not to mention costly. Treatment can range from $400 to $10,000 depending on how you treat the problem as well as the size of the problem. Furthermore, we teach people how to travel safely, and avoid bringing bed bugs home. What to look for and how to search for them. They are super crafty insects and masters at hide-and-go-seek.”
“Breeze detects bed bugs, as few as one bug, including their eggs or egg,” she said. “Bed bugs have five developmental stages (instars) of life before becoming an adult and able to reproduce. With three million receptors in her perfect little beagle nose, not much gets past her. A born hunter, finding bed bugs is a joy and game for her.” When she sniffs out her target, Breeze will give a ‘positive alert response’ by placing her nose on the source of the odour and immediately sitting.
Another service the team offers is suitcase inspection when you come home from vacation and will even meet you at the airport.
LLano and Breeze are inseparable and she says the dog’s calm and sensitive nature sets her apart. “She never barks or howls although sometimes I wish she would. The rare time she did bark she scared herself and me! I was not expecting that deep noise from such a small and gentle puppy.”
Breeze’s reward for finding the insects is praise and love.
“She adores me and wants to please me, said LLano. “The feeling is mutual.”
For more information, consult www.sniff911mtl.com