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Dogs Sniff Out Whale Scat
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Like the Bay of Fundy, Puget Sound made the task tricky. The boat must move perpendicular to the wind so Tucker can catch a scent, but given the sound’s many straits and gaps between islands, wind direction shifts constantly. Wasser checks it by squeezing baby powder into the air. “Sometimes, the whole boat is white from the baby powder,” he says.

 

Not only is Wasser often covered in baby power, he’s also often soaked. The crew periodically stops at islands so the dog can relieve himself. Because Tucker despises water, Wasser has to wade in and carry the dog to the island and then back to the boat, being careful to keep his paws dry. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten completely drenched and he hasn’t,” Wasser says.

 

All this wading and baby powder and games of tug are paying off, however, as Wasser begins to piece together an answer to why the orcas died off. The samples show a drop in the thyroid hormone, which indicates that the whales are not getting enough to eat. He needs to run more tests on the scat he has as well as what he collects this summer before he can be certain. But, thanks to one damp black nose, Wasser may solve this mystery.

 

 

This article was originally published as "Waterwork" 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 55: July/Aug 2009
Amy Sutherland is a journalist and author whose books include What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage (Random House), and Kicked, Bitten and Scratched. Her work has appeared numerous times in The Bark. amysutherland.com
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