The Very Busy Life of a Bedbug-Sniffing Beagle

Thanks to a recent surge in outbreaks of the pests, specially trained canines have plenty of work

For the past few months, Lucky has had plenty of work. Seven days a week, up to 15 times a day, this 4-year-old rescue dog has sniffed his way through New York City, one mattress at a time.

Lucky (not pictured) is a trained beagle with Advanced K9 Detectives, a bedbug inspection service. Along with his handler, Louis Morales, Lucky has nosed his way through the past year’s scariest scourge with aplomb.

“He’s been doing the bedbug thing for about three years now,” Morales says. “He loves to work. When he sees me getting ready, he’ll be jumping, trying to get outside, wanting to go to work.”

Lately, Lucky’s life has been a lot of work (with some play in between jobs). The resurgence of bedbugs, pests that went nearly unseen for half a century, has meant that companies like Advanced K9 Detectives have received an unprecedented number of calls.

One of Lucky’s recent clients, who asked to remain anonymous, was surprised to find that the dog was so happy to do his job. “He was really cute, and his tail was wagging,” says the client. “And I felt lucky because he didn’t find any bugs!”

Morales has worked with Lucky for about nine months, and as his handler, lives with his canine. (One of the perks of the job is getting a free weekly inspection of his own home.) Morales’s responsibilities, though, are much more than those of a regular pet owner.

“He’s a $20,000 dog,” Morales says. “Not only that, he’s the company’s dog. I’ve got to make sure he’s okay – really okay – all day long.”

On a large job – say, a 200-room hotel, which usually takes the duo about five hours – Morales gives Lucky breaks every hour. The dog eats while he’s working, getting food when he finds bugs (if there aren’t any on site, Morales has a training tool he keeps at home). In between jobs, Lucky sleeps in the back of Morales’ car.

When Morales first started working as the dog’s handler, most people they encountered thought Lucky was a drug-sniffing canine. Now, strangers assume he searches for bedbugs for a living.

“I’ll be crossing the street and people will chase me down to ask me questions,” Morales says. “I’ve given out a lot of business cards.”

The public is becoming more educated about bedbugs and how they spread, Morales says – including himself. He hasn’t sat down in a public place or gone to the movies for as long as he can remember. And when he travels, he checks his hotel room for any recognizable signs of the pests.

“Whatever you hear in the news, the reality is a lot worse,” he says of the outbreak. “Of course, there are worse things in life, but in everyday living, you really don’t want to deal with [bedbugs].”

Morales imagines a possible future when in-house bedbug-sniffing dogs will be employed by every company – and even owned by private households. Though it might be a possibility, for now, he and Lucky aren’t hurting for jobs.

“It’s wild,” Morales says. “I go out there and learn every day. It’s a new adventure all the time.”

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