Working like a dog


The job market is tough for a lot of us, but apparently at least one segment of the population has its career search well in hand (or paw): dogs.

A year ago, Jada, a frisky black mutt, was living in a Florida pound, her days numbered. Today she commands hundreds of dollars an hour at some of Manhattan's most exclusive hotels and apartment buildings. Her fate turned on her newly gained ability to sniff out something reviled in New York these days: bedbugs. ... Dogs have long been partners in law enforcement's searches for narcotics, explosives and people (both dead and alive). But now their keen noses are being put to use in a wider variety of areas, like medicine, environmental protection and anti-piracy efforts.

This is quite a step up for canines, especially when you consider one of the really unfortunate career paths they used to take: for centuries they were medical research subjects. As Tim and I write in the upcoming mental_floss presents: Med School in a Box, doctors first figured out how to treat anemia by bleeding dogs and then feeding them various substances to see if anything cured them. (Liver, which contains lots of B12, did the trick.) Dogs also clued researchers into the perils of too much Vitamin A. The Swiss scientist Xavier Mertz lost his food supplies on a polar expedition and had to resort to eating his poor sled dogs. Karma bit him back -- the animals' livers had so much A that Mertz died of an overdose.