Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's Sunny, with a chance of bedbugs

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BRANDON -- "Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite."

Bedbugs are tough to see and even tougher to get rid of, but people worried about a potential infestation can now fight back against the ravenous parasite that feeds on, among other things, human blood.

His name is Sunny, and although he might look like any other golden Labrador retriever, he's been trained to sniff out bedbugs hidden in the most unlikely places in your home.

"Business is slowly building as more and more reports of bedbugs come forward,"àsaid Eldon Seaward, owner of Prairie K9 Services in Carberry.

Health Canada says the female bedbug lays at least 200 eggs in her lifetime, at a rate of about two to four eggs per day, making early detection crucial to preventing a small bedbug problem from becoming a full-blown infestation.

It's also why more and more new homeowners are requesting the service as part of the sale of a home, he said.

Seaward, a former military officer, has owned and trained dogs for more than two decades and fell in love with dog-handling during his tours in Afghanistan.

He originally planned to return to Afghanistan to work as a handler for bomb-sniffing dogs, but instead chose to establish a business handling dogs in Manitoba.

"The service is used by everyday working people for homes to schools and oil companies,"àSeaward said.

Seaward employs three dogs in his service: Sunny, his bedbug expert; Cisco, a two-year-old German shepherd trained in protection services; and Anji, a four-year-old German shepherd trained in narcotics detection.

Seaward said more and more companies are using dogs to ensure the workplace is clear of any illegal drugs. "Anji will go through trailers and lockers and check anything that isn't a person, because obviously that is against the law,"àSeaward said. "If the company's policy is to have zero drugs on the site, then we can check baggage and lockers and everything in between by the dog."

While Anji is an expert in detection, Cisco is trained in the art of protection.

"Cisco has been trained in all the obedience work, plus all the protection work, which is the bite on the sleeve, and he is trained to bite and release on command," Seaward said.

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A10

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