Handsome Molly is a cat detection dog and the only one in the UK. She has been trained to find missing cats. This has got to be a brilliant idea. Colin Butcher runs Pet Detectives. He had the idea. He realised that dogs have fantastic noses with which they can detect all manner of things from drugs to cancer. Why not employ a well-trained dog to detect a cat who might be trapped in a shed or simply lost and frightened to the point where she had become paralyzed with fear?
It seems to me that one of the key aspects of this project, which has proved to be successful by the way, is to find a dog with suitable characteristics: a dog who does not like to chase cats!
Colin came up with the idea in 2014. At that time he had been running Pet Detectives for 20 years. He makes an interesting point. He says that when cats go to ground (by which I presume he means they are lost and frightened) they may go into a comatose-like state. He says that even when they are found they sometimes don’t survive the experience. He says that cats need to be found quite quickly, within a fortnight, in order to avoid this state.
Colin was motivated to come up with the idea by an experience that he had with a couple who were struggling to have children. They adopted a cat as a substitute and they lost their cat. They were bereft and this motivated him to find a better way of finding lost cats.
The dog that he trained was a ‘giveaway’ on Gumtree, the well-known personal advertisement website. She is an 18-month-old black haired cocker spaniel. Molly had had three owners before Colin adopted her as a cat detective dog. He decided that she had the right temperament and was intelligent. She had the natural disposition to search for game being a working dog. The training was to channel her natural instincts into finding lost cats.
Before they started training Molly had to be tested to see whether she genuinely did not want to chase cats. She was taken to a farm on which a dozen cats lived. She showed no interest in chasing them and did not even bark.
Training took nine months. She was a quick learner. She was trained to pick up the scent of cats from their bedding. She is also trained to lie down once she detects the missing cat. This is to avoid scaring the cat. A reward is a favourite treat: black pudding. It needs to be mentioned that Molly was trained by Medical Detection Dogs.
Molly has rescued eleven cats so far. The search rate success has improved. She has been given boots to protect her paws when searching for cats in outbuildings where there might be glass or other dangerous objects on the floor.
Colin recites one particular success. He was looking for a calico moggy (a tortoiseshell and white). The cat had been seen 6 miles from her home on the roof of a garden shed. Molly picked up her scent from the grass. She tracked her across the back of 30 gardens and then started to claw at a fence. She then raced across the lawn to a summerhouse and lay down. The missing cat was inside the summerhouse.
I am sure that a lot of people thought that it is unnatural to train a dog to find cats because we have this preconception that dogs always chase cats. This is not the case and Molly proves the point. It is a brilliant use of the super sensitive nose of the domestic dog. There will be many more very happy clients in the future. I just hope that I won’t be one of them.
My thanks to the Guardian newspaper for the story.
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