“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one… She is the Slayer.”
Yes, that’s the introduction to the cult classic show Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, but that monologue is also applicable to one hard-working pup at Doctor’s Hosptial of Sarasota who is sniffing out COVID infections.
According to The New York Times, Buffy’s shift consists of greeting people at the front door of the hospital. Naturally, few decline the opportunity to say hello to the friendly dog. Once Buffy is granted permission, she will sniff the visitor’s feet, detecting any whiffs of an active COVID-19 infection.
The yellow lab was trained by the Palmetto-based Southeastern Guide Dogs for scent detection. While the organization has been training service animals for years, scent detection was new territory, an experiment conducted once the threat of the virus was on the rise.
The original plan for Buffy was to train her in the art of detecting heightened levels of cortisol, AKA the stress hormone, to have her assist military veterans suffering from PTSD. The pandemic derailed that plan, but Southeastern Guide Dogs were inspired by small, early studies being conducted in Europe- training dogs to detect COVID.
Buffy and three other dogs in her class were selected for this experiment. All four dogs had flunked out of Southeastern’s guide dog training for being too energetic, but a new opportunity awaited them.
Buffy trained for three months, sniffing everything from chicken sandwiches, to gum, and cigarettes that had been injected with saliva samples. Those samples were collected from Doctors Hospital patients with active COVID infections, and then underwent a process that rendered them safe for research and non-infectious for the dogs.
Buffy graduated with a 95% accuracy rate at detecting the virus. Working at the Sarasota hospital, she’s had the opportunity to put her knowledge and training to the test.
When a visitor arrived at the hospital, they cited no symptoms of COVID. However, Buffy pointed her well-trained snout at the person’s feet and layed down next to them- her signal for detecting the virus. It was the first time she had acted like that.
Hospital staff ran a rapid COVID test, and it returned with positive results. It appears that Buffy’s training has paid off well and she can indeed detect a live virus.
Watch Buffy in action.
Doctors Hospital CEO Robert Meade believes that his institution is the first to have such a uniquely talented pooch. When she isn’t hard at work, Buffy resides with Meade. Meade tries to keep Buffy’s skills sharp, so he hides canisters containing the inactive virus around the house.
It may be different from your usual game of fetch with a dog, but Buffy is no ordinary girl.