Meet Pepin, an 8-year-old Belgian malinois. Pepin’s special, but not because of his fancy breed. He’s special because he’s crazy.
“Spirited,” or “high energy,” might be more diplomatic, but when Megan Parker of Working Dogs for Conservation went looking for a dog, crazy was a good thing. Working Dogs for Conservation is a program that uses dogs and their great scenting abilities to, “find poachers’ snares in Africa, exotic weeds from Missoula to Minnesota, and stream contaminants such as pharmaceuticals,” says the article Jeff Welsch wrote in the winter issue of Montana Quarterly.
The dogs are also being trained to smell a stream and tell if native fish species like cutthroat trout are present, or if non-native species have taken over. Really.
And Megan Parker says one in 1,000 dogs are suitable for the program.
“They’re so super high energy, it’s a little scary,” Welsch quotes her as saying. “Pepin is sweet as the day is long, but he’s focused and toy obsessed…. They have to really want to do this.”
“Crazy eyes” is how Parker describes the look Pepin gets when it’s time to go to work.
Preparing for a trip to Myanmar, Pepin must learn the difference between the scent of wild elephant dung and that of domestic elephants. In Myanmar, he will help researchers get accurate numbers on the endangered wild elephant population, which is surprisingly elusive in the dense jungle.
Actual scat from a wild elephant in Myanmar was collected and then sent to Bozeman so that Parker could hide it around her yard south of town and Pepin could find it in all sorts of places.
His favorite reward? Play.