Get a sniff of this: Buffy the service dog slays in the fight against Covid-19

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Buffy has a nose for sniffing out people infected with Covid-19. (PHOTO: Doctors Hospital of Sarasota/Facebook)
Buffy has a nose for sniffing out people infected with Covid-19. (PHOTO: Doctors Hospital of Sarasota/Facebook)

Buffy, the service dog is proving once again why dogs are man’s best friend.

Three days a week, the Labrador retriever works at the entrance of the Doctors Hospital of Sarasota in Florida, in the US, sniffing the feet of visitors to check if they have Covid-19.

So far, Buffy (2) has been accurate about 95% of the time.

The dog detects a chemical change in a person's immune system and whether their body is fighting the virus, explains her trainer, Laska Parrow.

"It's a distinct smell," she says. "The body's response to us fighting off Covid is what the dogs are reacting to."

Buffy's journey to becoming a Covid-19-detection dog started when she and three of her fur friends were dropped from a training programme to be guide dogs for visually impaired people and veterans with PTSD because they were distracted by smells.

Recognising that their superior noses could be put to good use, Bob Meade, CEO of the Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, suggested the hounds be trained on how to detect Covid-19.

Buffy, Covid-19, patients
Buffy has been a welcome addition to the healthcare workers at the Doctors Hospital of Sarasota in Florida in the US. (PHOTO: Guidedogs)

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After training for three months, Buffy joined other healthcare workers in the fight against Covid-19 at the Florida-based hospital.

During her second day on the job, she found the first patient she identified as having the virus.

“After sniffing a female guest, Buffy laid down at a woman's feet to indicate that she detected Covid-19," Parrow says.

Following the dog's signal, the guest took a Covid test at the hospital's ER, which came back positive.

Though some visitors are surprised by her presence at the hospital, their response has been positive as people don’t find her intimidating and are happy to be sniffed by the gentle Lab.

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In addition to her ability to detect Covid cases with a whiff of her nose, she's also a treasured source of pet therapy for the hospital's caregivers.

“The work is challenging, so having a happy, sweet pup to greet you has been a welcomed stress relief,” Meade says.


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