Tucker was formerly a stray picked up on the streets of Seattle, and now spends his time sniffing out and tracking orca, killer whales, off the coast of Washington.
The New York Times originally reported on Tucker and his amazing job and it turned into an "awesome story" and reported on The Dogington Post by Brandy Arnold.
What makes this an amazing story is that Tucker is the only dog in the world that is able to find and track the scent of orca feces, or scat, in ocean water - up to a mile away, and even in very small amounts. What value does this unique skill have, you ask. Well, it is crucial in monitoring the health of these killer whales off the coast of Washington, an endangered group that is probably among the most studied animal populations in the world. Since their scat can sink or disperse in 30 minutes or less, this unique skill that Tucker possesses, gives the marine biologists the opportunity to collect their scat for testing.
Interpreting Tucker's signals is a full time job in itself. This process is not like bomb and drug-sniffing dogs, who can lead their human partners directly to the source of the scent. With Tucker, "The slightest twitch of his ear is important," said Elizabeth Seely, a trainer who has worked with Tucker for four years at a nonprofit group called the Conservation Canines, which specializes in dog-assisted research on behalf of endangered species.
Here's how this process works. The boat is Tucker's leash and using subtle leans, the captain can determine which way to steer the ship. Using his posture, stance, and level of interest, the trainer can determine where the boat should be headed. I would love to be on that boat with Tucker, how about you?
Tucker is a ball-driven dog and so that turns out to be a great way to reward him for his great work! He works for ball time :-)
Prof. Samuel K. Wasser, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington and the director of the orca scat research project, said the team can determine whale stress by measuring stress hormones in their scat, enter Tucker and his fantastic skill of sniffing out their scat!
The research project originally set out to determine if boat activity was causing whales to be stressed, but with this important research they have concluded that a low food supply is a bigger stressor.
Yay for Tucker and despite his hundreds of hours spent sniffing out orca scat on boats, he refuses to get wet!