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Sunday 21 Jul 2024

Doggie Scent Abilities
David Simmonds

Source: Vol Lz Neias

Can dogs sniff out Covid-19?  Absolutely yes, say British researchers.  Dogs do it better and quicker than most scientific tests.

Tee-shirt research.

Claiming an accuracy rate of between 82% and 94%, researchers in England were able to expose dogs to t-shirt samples, some of which were ever so slightly infected with the coronavirus and have the dogs correctly identify the infected shirts. The dogs were equally good at identifying true negatives, a 92% rating.

The study has yet to undergo peer review. Researchers, however, were so excited with results they made them public. The news is good.

It’s a real victory for the canines, who have a sensory setup that is sixty times more powerful than human receptors. By way of illustration, one researcher compared the sensory capacity of a dog to the ability to find a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized swimming pool. There it is again, the invidious Olympic swimming pool comparison.

How abundant are the dandelions on my lawn? Well, enough to cover the floor of an Olympic swimming pool, twice! May I assume the pool was chlorinated?

The authors of the study, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at Durham University and a charity called Medical Detection Dogs, say that, once trained, a dog can sniff out three hundred people in half an hour. That makes the use of dogs viable at airport and sports stadiums and anywhere else a large crowd gather.

The breeds most likely to succeed at this task are Labradors Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, all known to be on the meeker side of the aggressiveness spectrum.  Just imagine how quickly a crowd could be shaken down using Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls or German Shepherds, which could smell down the disease in an instant. The price is always right, too, a treat or two for success.

Dog smelling is already recognized as a diagnostic tool. It’s been used to detect Parkinson’s, Malaria and bladder cancer.  Why not look more widely afield for potential uses for canine sensory abilities?

Well, one enterprising vintner in the County is doing just that.  Yvonne Tailfeather. She owns the Hillier area winery known as Stony Soils Vineyards. She planning to bring Rex, her companion dog, to her new retail shop when it opens, once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The dog as sommelier.

Rex, claims Tailfeather, can sniff out a Chardonnay from a Pinot Noir and tell when he is offered a Cabernet Franc and not a Riesling.  Rex has also, she says, beaten experts from the Ontario Wine Guild in testing varietal wines in blind challenges. He can identify the vintage year of the product; barking once if the wine is from last year; twice if it is two years old and ten times if it ten or more years old.

Tailfeather eschews any comparison to the legendary Clever Hans, the horse who could count. Hans caused a sensation back in 1904. He, in fact, was responding to subtle, subconscious cues from his master. “Rex really can smell the difference,” she asserts and the results for the COVID-19 wonder dogs appear to back her up.

Tailfeather has great plans for Rex. She has her eye on politicians and the next federal election, expected to come this fall. “Right now, I’m training him in bafflegab detection,” says Tailfeather.

“People give off a certain odour from heightened stress when they don’t really believe what they are saying. If I can just get enough t-shirt samples from known liars, I figure I can take him to some all-candidates meetings and set the cat among the pigeons, as it were!” Let’s hope so.

In fact, she claims, dogs, such as Rex, would be very useful to police agencies in deterring whether to charge suspects and to judges and juries assessing guilt. “Think of all the time and money that our justice system could save,” she notes. “We’d still come out with a 90% accuracy rating,”

She also raves about the possibility of taking Rex to car dealers and determining whether she is really being offered the lowest clear out price. Perhaps Rex could attend church, where he can determine if clergy really believe what they are preaching.

In the meantime, Tailfeather plans to use Rex as the public face of the new vineyard.  He will appear on every wine label and every bottle she sells will carry the “Rex-tested” imprimatur as a guarantee of purity. Confidence in the quality of the wine will soar.

Rex had no comment.

Tailfeather is preparing to rent out Rex to wine tasting events and bachelorette parties that will supposedly take place in the County during the summer.  “If you’ve got a rooster that lays golden eggs,” she asserts blithely, “you’ve got to milk him for all he’s worth.” Rex had no comment.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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