Working Like a Dog

DEEP IN THE WOODS.

Sweat rolls down my cheek and drips off the end of my chin.
I'm entangled in another network of invisible spider webs. Suddenly, a stabbing pain strikes the inside of my knee. I cry out, “OW!”

DON’T CRY.

I continue repeating "Ow!" like a mantra.
"Ah, yellow jackets," says Caleb. He and Winnie and are down the slope ahead of me. We're several hours into a sweltering mid-July day in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We sent Alli, our Community & Content Manager, down to California to spend a few days in the field with the Conservation Canines. Her mission was to get to know our partners a little better, gain a first-hand experience with the work they do, collect feedback on our products and product performance, and of course, have fun. Since we know that Alli spends most of her free time in the mountains, either backcountry skiing or trail running long distances, we figured she’d fit right in and have no problem keeping up with these working dogs and their handlers. We would all soon discover that Alli was in for the adventure of her summer.

Winnie

a.k.a. Win-Win
Winnie is leading our team. She's a petite black lab with brown doe eyes and a sweet demeanor. Caleb is a Conservation Canines handler and Winnie's working partner. We’re searching for scat deposited by Pacific fisher, an elusive carnivorous mammal faced with shrinking habitat and the threat of extinction.

SNIFFING FOR SCIENCE.

Really, it’s all about the reward.
Winnie uses her sharp nose and extreme drive to locate Pacific fisher scat in the woods and near streams. With each find, Caleb rewards her with a toy.

BACK AT CAMP.

The car is a welcome sight.
We return to camp to find shade and rest. I inspect the burrs embedded in my shoes, peel off my dusty socks, and doze in my camp chair. For Winnie, it's just another day's work.
Conservation Canines deploys their scat detection dogs on projects around the world. Using non-invasive techniques, they're able to collect information on threatened and endangered wildlife. CK9 teams have searched the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California for Pacific fisher scat since 2006. Fisher, a large member of the weasel family, face the threat of a shrinking habitat. Today, the Sierras represent the southern-most part of the fisher’s range. The data collected on this project helps shape a better understanding of fisher biology. Scat samples provide a location for habitat use, prey remains and hormone levels. This information serves as an indicator of the stress associated with habitat change.