We’ve all seen and heard about how a canine’s sense of smell can be employed to do amazing things – things that you and I can’t do. Movies and TV shows have all shown how they can track down drugs, bombs, and even people – but here’s something even more amazing.

Did you know that dogs can sniff out pollution?

Yep, they can. Turns out dogs have the ability, when trained, to sniff out contaminants such as oil that are buried deep in soil and rock. Here’s a picture of Picture of Cookie in AlaskaCookie, a black lab who recently partnered with NOAA to assess the status of the Prince William Sound area in wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill from years ago. In certain habitats—like gravel or sand beaches—oil either penetrates deeply below the surface or becomes buried by material deposited on top, making oil assessment even more difficult. In these cases, teams have to dig pits to determine the existence and extent of buried oil that would require excavation and other more complicated cleanup approaches. Cookie can do the same job – but without having to do all that digging.

Dogs are now being used in recent oil spills to assess environmental impact, and continuing to do so effectively and without major disruption to the area. A group that is based in Southern Pines trains Canine Oil Detection Teams that can validate areas for No Detectable Oil (NDO), surface or subsurface. These canines have demonstrated the ability to detect subsurface oil at a minimum of three feet below the surface – deeper than three feet during deployments. Additionally, their dogs have the ability to detect oil underwater in shallow river, lake or shoreline areas.

Canine oil detection

Best my dogs can do is smell bread every time I start to make a sandwich – but they are good at that, at least.