National Geographic : 2002 Jan
a machine detect the odors? "I'm a dog man," says Gabel. "To say a machine is ever going to catch up to a dog's nose, it's unlikely." "A machine has to be calibrated, directed at a target," says Carl Newcombe, former director of the center. "A dog responds outside the parameters. He smells it wherever it is and responds. Half the time we're not even in search mode when the dog finds something." Dogs have been trained to find land mines in war zones, sniff out survivors after earthquakes or bombings, and locate drowning victims underwater. They serve as eyes for the They serve blind, ears for the as eyes for deaf, and therapeutic the l, companions to the the bi ., unwell. They can de ears for the deaf, tect signs of an epi and therapeutic leptic fit before the companions to sufferer knows it's the unwell. coming. They find quail, ducks, grouse, and woodcock for sportsmen, and they defend the dwellings of worried urbanites in bad neighborhoods. But truth be told, dogs that work today are a minority, awash in a sea of village scavengers and those that make their way through life just being bits of fluff or bundles of fur to cuddle. Nowhere is that more evident than at the world's biggest dog show, Crufts, in England. Named for a 19th-century itinerant dog food salesman and entrepreneur who never owned dogs himself, Crufts drew 20,780 dog entries and some 88,000 people to the 2001 show, which covered 250,000 square feet in five huge halls at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Far from being a gath ering of tony toffs in tweed, it's a convention that crosses every social barrier, with competi tors like tattooed, earringed, crew-cut Marc Howard, who came to show Ice, his burly Chinese shar-pei, and proper ladies like Sue Pinkerton of Exeter, who shows Tcheria Hot in the Shade, a towering borzoi descended GOOD THERAPY Jessie, a specially trained whippet, lets herself be loved while visiting Lucas Parks at the National Institutes of Health. Petting, brushing, and tossing balls helped Lucas keep up his strength during a long hospitalization for an immune disease.