Mold Sniffing Dog

POSTED: Monday, January 4, 2010 - 11:45am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm

The key to job security these days is to provide a service or have a talent that's in demand. And then work hard and work smart. There's much work for Rob Donahue to do right now, and a lot of competition to do it. But, Rob Donahue uses a special tool that gives him an edge no one else can match. This fall, with all the rain and all the humidity, Metro Atlanta has grown a bumper crop of mold.

"We've had situations," Donahue said, "Where it's a chronic cough or sneezing and they didn't know that. Once they'd leave their environment for a day or two they feel fine. And when they come back they tend to get sick again."

Donahue is busy. But he was looking for some way to distinguish himself from his competitors. "I was looking into other tools," Donahue said, "That could help me do a better job; a more precise job; an accurate job."

So Donahue hired an assistant -- Maggi. "All the dogs that come from the canine academy are rescue dogs," said Donahue. "They all come from animal rescue."

Abandoned during a hurricane in 2004, rescued and trained at the Florida Canine Academy for a thousand hours over eight months, Maggi is an expert in detecting mold. Even on days when Maggi is not on the job, Donahue keeps training her.

She also must go back to The Florida Canine Center once a year for re-certification in mold identification. "Your nose," explained Donahue. "It's sensitivity will smell the brownie; the food. Where Maggi comes in, with parts per trillion, she smells the ingredients: the flour, the sugar, the syrup."

Today, Donahue is taking Maggi through his house. She's not faking it. She can't. This is how she gets fed. By finding mold. And Rob's house has mold.

"The dog can be trained to go to work," Donahue said. "Do it's job. Get the reward. And then it'll be my job to go and clean up behind them." Maggi is 90 percent accurate. Donahue also has a test he can use for mold. He says he'd rather use Maggi.