'The nose knows'
Clancy came to town Tuesday and immediately went to work searching for mercury. He isn't a human. Clancy is a black-chocolate Labrador retriever with a bit of hound, and is owned and used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in school demons...
Clancy came to town Tuesday and immediately went to work searching for mercury.
He isn't a human. Clancy is a black-chocolate Labrador retriever with a bit of hound, and is owned and used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in school demonstrations and actual efforts to find liquefied mercury and mercury-bearing equipment.
Clancy and his handler, MPCA mercury educator Carol Hubbard, visited the Detroit Lakes High School Tuesday.
MPCA regional information officer Dan Olson, Detroit Lakes, said the pair will spend about a week visiting area schools and demonstrating Clancy's unique skills.
"He is only one of two dogs in the world that can sniff out mercury," shared Olson.
Clancy is used by the MPCA in its statewide Mercury-Free Zone Program, which began in October 2001.
When on the job, Clancy and Hubbard will go to areas inside buildings where mercury or mercury-bearing equipment was once used or may have been used, such as science classrooms.
The mercury may have escaped, for example, from a broken thermometer. Although efforts were made to clean it up, Olson said remnants may remain in floor cracks, behind cabinets or in desk drawers.
Because mercury won't evaporate, Olson said the toxic material will just "sit there" and thus poses a threat to anyone unwittingly coming into contact with it.
Clancy, approximately six or seven years old, was obtained by MPCA from the Humane Society. He was chosen for the work because of his enthusiastic and persistent passion to play with a tennis ball. Olson said those characteristics are ideal in searching for and locating mercury.
The St. Paul Police Department Canine Unit assisted Hubbard in training Clancy, as police K-9 trainers know how to train dogs to find illegal and dangerous substances.
"He doesn't quit until he finds something," stressed Olson of Clancy's skill level.
And that also makes Clancy an ideal tool by which to educate students, even teachers, about mercury.
"The important message when they bring Clancy around is if you find mercury don't touch it," said Olson. "It is especially harmful to children because it affects them in their developmental ages."
A sample of Clancy's blood is taken every three months for a mercury analysis. Each test has found the amount of mercury exposure is below the detection level.
MPCA scientists think the concentrations of mercury that Clancy will be exposed to are far too low to affect him during his lifetime.