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Trained canines are crucial ‘safety net’ for agriculture

Lisa and Cosmo
Parcel inspection dog 'Cosmo.'
Dogs are a crucial piece of our safety net to block invasive pests that threaten California’s farms, forests, and ecology, said A.G. Kawamura.

Dogs are often called people’s ‘best friend’ and the shoe sure fits. Many dog lovers can attest to how canines make our lives better and hopefully the reverse is true. Canines can become heroes for many, including those in agriculture who produce, process, pack, and ship our nation’s food and fiber.

Eight years ago, Western Farm Press posted an article about a dog named Tassie, an ‘employee’ of the Sacramento Department of Agriculture. The trained canine intercepted a package of guava fruit and curry leaves sent from Texas to Sacramento with invasive pests inside - 100 Asian citrus psyllids (ACP).

Tassie’s timely find was truly heroic for California agriculture as the pesky half-inch-long ACP is the major vector of the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter spp which causes the deadly citrus tree disease Huanglongbing.

Following Tassie’s heroic find, then California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary A.G. Kawamura said, “They’re (dogs) a crucial piece of our safety net to block the arrival of invasive pests that continually threaten California’s farms, forests, and ecology.”   

Just recently, another canine recently came to agriculture’s rescue. In late September, an Alameda County (Calif.) parcel inspection dog named Cosmo intercepted a package of limes sent from Florida infected with exotic citrus (bacterial) canker. The disease can cause premature fruit and leaf drop in citrus trees, resulting in production losses and economic harm to citrus growers.

Dogs including Tassie and Cosmo, and even a nervous or barking dog when fear nears, can make a major difference in our lives. According to The Washington Post, 18 month-old puppies are taught special skills to help wounded veterans perform everyday skills at home like shutting doors.

The website lists 25 heroic dogs that helped protect their humanoids from harm, including Moti, a five-year-old German shepherd who literally took a bullet for his human family when an armed, masked intruder entered the household.

Many agriculturalists can tell stories about how their pets make a big difference in their lives, including this writer. When it comes down to saving agriculture from harm’s way we owe a lot to our canine friends, including our respect, admiration, and hugs - shown in part by a well-deserved box of doggie treats.

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