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Doggone It!

The family dog may not only be a friendly companion but also a reflection of your community's health. And speaking of communities, there are probably lots of wild animals hiding out in YOUR neighborhood, especially coyotes! And what if you trained your dog to sniff out bedbugs so could you perpetrate YOUR OWN conspiracy and smuggle him into your hotel room to check things out?

Researcher Michael Edelbrock has discovered that dogs respond to toxicity much like humans. When humans are exposed to environmental pollution, gene mutations can lead to diseases such as cancer. Edelbrock is looking at the possibility of studying the canine population in a defined geographical area to determine how the same environment may affect the humans living there.

Edelbrock plans to compare cells from pets and strays, and build depth from there. He says, "The questions are endless. We could look at environmental differences such as smoking versus non-smoking homes, rural versus urban animals, and eventually compare results from different cities."

Should he test coyotes too? These wild animals have recently been spotted both downtown and uptown in New York City, meaning that they are well established in one of our largest urban areas. Researcher Paul D. Curtis says, "Coyotes, raccoons and several other wildlife species can be very adaptable. These animals can flourish in urban parks and green spaces, including areas such as Central Park in New York City. There are may greenways, power transmission lines, train tracks and other travel corridors these animals can use to move through highly developed residential areas. It is not unusual for dispersing coyotes to travel many miles."

In the March 11th edition of the New York Times, Penelope Green writes about a pet dog named Cruiser that has been trained to sniff out bedbugs. How do you know if you've got them? Bites, which look like welts or hives, are the first sign. Bedbugs look different at each stage of their lives: The eggs are clear and the size of a pencil point, the babies are semi-transparent and poppy seed-size and adults are rust-colored and as big as an apple seed.

Cruiser's owner, Jeremy Ecker, makes house calls, sometimes at the request of realtors. Green quotes Ecker's partner, Mr. Rincon, as saying, "We see people who literally haven't slept for weeks. They think everything is a bedbug. At a place in Jersey, the wife was a total wreck. She'd saved 15 samples of stuff, thinking it was bedbugs." It turned out to be lint.

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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