Dog and human interest article in NY Times(15 posts)
Interesting article of a day in the life of a canine team and the human interest side if the clients.
I've started an account here specifically to comment on this thread/article.
I awoke a week ago yesterday covered in, what were at that time, little red "bug bite" looking bumps. They didn't itch much, and there were about a 100 of them scattered about my torso, many in the fabled "three bite" formation.
My roommate (who was free of such bumps) and myself, in our ignorance, became alarmed that we had bedbugs. Searching around online, and reading all the hysterical articles and postings scattered about the internet, I had a heck of a time satisfactorily dispelling this notion. It surely seemed plausible, and I found many photos of bedbug bites which looked a heck of a lot like what was on me; in fact, no other skin disorder I found so closely resembled my welts.
We searched our beds and mattresses for evidence, finding not a thing, but were already long aware -- via the media and internet -- that bedbugs are known for nothing if not how elusive they can be.
It was decided in my irrational panic that my money would be more wisely spent, first, on eliminating the bedbug question in my quest to diagnose my "bites." We Googled around and found the company mentioned in this article here. The site looked legit, our cursory research revealed that dogs in the opinions of many are really the way to go, and this company's pricing, while a lot, seemed competitive. Anxious to get the show on the road and find out what the hell's going on, we called and booked their services for the next day.
In the meantime I called our landlord who informed me that he'd heard of no bedbug infestations in our apartment, and asked that I keep him abreast of my findings.
Now, this dog inspector's site does feature the red flag language "up to 95% accuracy" which my roommate and I even joked at the time means absolutely nothing -- 0%-94% are on the way up to 95%, and that's ignoring that there's an assurance they'll be inaccurate 5% of the time -- but we really needed to know if we had bedbugs. And, well, in our haste and ever increasing madness doing something was far better than doing nothing.
By now the whole thing had started to get inside our heads. We made ourselves crazy with worry. My roommate's boss sent him home and his girlfriend refused to see him until the matter was settled, I put my weekend plans on hold.
I awoke the next morning with new "bites," eager as hell for the dog to arrive. And later that morning, as scheduled, it did.
The handler was very friendly and the dog adorable. I could not be in the room with the handler and dog while they did the search, so I had to move around to be where they weren't while the made the rounds. At the end the handler took me around and showed me the spots. My bed, our couch, a chair of ours, and suitcase of my roommates all made the pooch go nutty and scratch away. He was given a treat after each scratch.
My heart sank as I came to terms with the degree to which our lives were about to be upended. But, at least I had my answer.
I asked the handler some questions and he prefaced his answers, not once but three times, with "I'm no expert, but..." And even then I thought nothing of it.
A couple of other things did catch the dogs attention, such as the Combat roach trap on the ground. The handler just pulled the dog away. I noticed and said "do you think maybe there are bedbugs in there?" The handler just shrugged, and said "I don't know, maybe?"
I asked him if he thought the infestation was small and he DID say, to his credit "Well, if you have that many bites, it's not small. But I've seen far worse. When infestations get really bad you can see them crawling all over everything."
He told me to call a pest controller who would tell us how to proceed, I paid him the agreed upon amount ($350), thanked him for his time, and sent him on his way.
That evening my roommate and I set about researching with which pest control company we should go. There was one whose name kept coming up again and again for effectiveness. Their prep was extreme and their prices exorbitant, but it did seem their methods worked. Truthfully you could find no one who said otherwise. So, we contacted them, got an over the phone estimate (a LOT of money), and after being emailed their prep list and guarantee agreement settled in to have our lives radically altered for the coming weeks and months.
They too would send a dog, ascertain for themselves whether or not we have bedbugs, and begin prep and treatment if we do.
Before bed (this was Friday night) I was surfing the internet and Googling this matter further, seeing if any reasonable and/or cheaper options might exist. I found myself here, where I had been a number of times throughout the couple of days prior but now actually reading. I saw that in the view of a reputable many, canine inspection without uncovering physical evidence of infestation was considered, at best, shoddy work and worst downright dishonest. I learned that the pest controllers we were thinking of hiring, themselves, rely solely on canine inspection, and I found myself realizing that we may have just paid $350 for the privilege of having a dog in our apartment for a few minutes, and really -- for all intents and purposes -- not a damned thing more. I felt very embarrassed and a little angry.
By now convinced we had bedbugs, and pretty much entirely quarantined from friends, associate, loved ones, and passersby alike, we still knew we could not in good conscience proceed with treatment until a reputable pest controller actually uncovered irrefutable evidence of infestation. We were certain the dog was correct, but before spending thousands of dollars you really want to be that extra bit certain.
Throughout this time my bites increased in number, and changed in character from red bumps to more decidedly welts, but by now I did not question what they were.
So, through a combination of his being a recurring presence in the discussions here, an wonderfully compelling interview online, and New York Magazine's glowing recommendation, we wound up calling your own KillerQueen. This being a Saturday we were truly amazed that we'd managed to book him for the next day at 8 AM, but we did.
The next morning, unfortunately, John had to cancel but dutifully rescheduled for 8 AM the following morning. We remained in our buggy limbo for the next 24 hours, by now entirely immersed in the reality of an infested apartment. KillerQueen, via his famously thorough inspection, was going to confirm what we already knew.
At 8 AM Monday morning, on the nose, KillerQueen arrived as scheduled. He asked for the story, and I began to tell him of how I awoke Wednesday morning covered in itchy red bumps, and he pretty much stopped me dead at that.
"Wait, you saw these welts overnight?" he asked.
I responded, "yeah, to the best of my knowledge."
"And you're covered in them?"
He finally and confidently replied, "then it's not bedbugs."
I lifted my shirt as though to say "are you sure?", and he looked and said "yeah, that's not bedbugs... If you had that many bites from bedbugs over that short a period of time your apartment would be overrun. They'd be crawling all over everything. There'd be no ambiguity. What you've got, if it were bedbug bites, would not be from a small infestation."
He gave my mattress and bed a superficial check, told me to see a dermatologist, informed me that he would not be charging for his visit, and with that he left.
The whole thing took five minutes, if that.
Since then I've learned, from a dermatologist, that I most likely had a form of folliculitis; commonly mistaken for insect bites and, for assorted reasons, actually a far more likely cause of my "bites."
I blame myself for all of the above. My haste, ignorance, and susceptibility to suggestion in the absence of evidence caused the whole thing. My whole damned face is covered in egg every bit as much as my torso is covered in welts.
Gratefully, KillerQueen is honorable enough to refuse our payment. So, ultimately we were only in the hole for the one inspection. But the wrong folks got our money. I feel very strongly that we just flushed $350 down the drain for nothing. Other people have to be informed of this racket and, I'm afraid, this article (and it was one of THESE VERY DOGS who did our apartment last week) won't help matters at all.
Did this canine inspection company deliver a service ANY different from what they promised? NO, they didn't, and I will STRESS that. It's our fault for not understanding how meaningless the service they provide actually is. The owner, quoted repeatedly in this article, was quick to remind us of their fulfillment of their end of the agreement when we called to complain. We knew he was right, so we didn't raise much of a fuss.
I can't believe that right in the wake of all of that, our strange bedbug reality of 72 hours -- prompted by his dog's diagnosis -- usurped Monday morning and replaced with the reality of a mere rash, this article is running in the New York Times.
If you read all of this, I thank you. And KillerQueen I and my roommate especially thank you personally.
Nobugstobefound...thank you for sharing your story. I think (imo) this exact thing happens to people all the time. People believe what they believe and I am so glad that you went the extra mile for your own sake to make confirmation. There really should be more positive stories of this but in most cases...people go into treating a mystery ghost that isn't there or they find out they are in the clear, feel relieved and never post about it. Thanks for taking the time to share. I'm sure it will help others to react logically and investigate further rather than react on emotion.
paulaw0919 - 45 minutes ago »
Thanks for taking the time to share. I'm sure it will help others to react logically and investigate further rather than react on emotion.
Thank you for reading and responding so thoughtfully.
I simply could not believe that this article exists, not a week after our dealings with this service. What crazy timing. That the article does not even allude to the fact that there's any level of controversy among pest-controllers about a service which provides canine inspection without uncovering physical evidence is bothersome, but not surprising.
I hope it does help people. It was postings like this which helped me.
$350 is a lot of money, and a full treatment -- which if we'd not stopped for ten minutes and caught our breath, we very well may have wound up getting -- would have cost a heck of a lot more than that.
Again, thanks for reading.
Thanks for the story. One thing people tend to overlook as well is fecal spotting, which if you know what it looks like can be diagnostic as well. If a bedbug cannot be found, in most cases the poop they leave behind can be discovered by anyone with any experience with bedbugs. I'll add to mike potter's "show me the bedbugs" with "at least show me the poop!"
I posted about this article last night but that thread is dormant and this one is alive, so I am moving it here and deleting the old one!
New bed bug sniffing k9 FAQ (and NYTimes article)
A new article came out in the New York Times
tonightlast night, and it was as good an opportunity as any for me to take a stab at the long-awaited bed bug sniffing k9 FAQ.
Alternately, if you want to have an industry pow-wow or toss a few grenades, go to the Official dog industry thread.
This FAQ was partly based on the helpful suggestions in this thread, and I thank everyone who participated, though I only named LVK9 -- whose list of tips I paraphrased. More suggestions or corrections are very much welcomed.
nobugstobefound--That was a hell of a story well told, and which needed to be told. Thanks for sharing.
So, another thread gets hijacked by the cult of the mint milano
Saw a post on BrickUnderground about this: http://brickunderground.com/blog/2010/03/bed_bug_sniffing_dogs_dont_fall_for_false_positives
While dogs can be an asset in the battle against bed bugs for sure the article did seem to read a bit like an infomercial.
I just updated my blog post to comment on the practice of having a subsequently-hired PCO team do the visual verifications of bed bug alerts, and also about the story's assertion that all bed bug sniffing canines are trained with food rewards (which is not true).
Winston O. Buggy - 33 minutes ago »
While dogs can be an asset in the battle against bed bugs for sure the article did seem to read a bit like an infomercial.
Here's the problem-- and I noted this in the new dog FAQ (which I hope you'll all look at and make suggestions on). Most articles about bed bug dogs are about one team or one trainer. Hence, they all read like infomercials.
Only ONE article I've seen (linked to -- from the FAQ from the Atlantic last summer) even mentions there is more than one "camp" in the bed bug dog training field, and that there are controveries over training, handling, and certification.
It is some story as others have mentioned above. I'm sorry you had a bad experience and I was also a bit shocked and thought of you when I read the article. The problem is I see this regularly (multiple times a week) by all types of teams with good and bad press.
With you posting your experience I hope it will help people make smarter choices. I'm just sorry it was a lesson with a price tag and the emotional distress that goes along with bed bugs.
I’m glad I was able to help and thank you for the kind words.
Best of luck to you!
Whenever anyone asks about canine detection, I always tell them that if they don't perform any visual verification I wouldn't pay them. Of course, you should ask this when you first call them and then if they don't do any visual verification, don't bother hiring them. Winston's correct about stories acting like infomercials. I told the editor when he contacted me about answering the posted questions that there are other canine teams who could be used in the story.
I would like to point out that Cruiser and his handlers are NESDCA certified.
(Disclaimer: I work with a K9 company that is not accredited by NESDCA)
Visual verification is an essential quality control procedure. I agree with everything that NoBugs has stated here and in the FAQ.
A K9 alert is not the same as a visual identification... which is the first step in any good IPM program.
Pulling the dog off a roach trap is a new handler error.
K9 alerts must be verified prior to treatment... I agree fully with Dr. Potter... Show me evidence of bed bugs...before any treatment is initiated.
We teach our handlers to look for signs of an allergic reaction combined with a lack of physical evidence of any infestation... a pattern that Killer Queen immediately recognized... redirecting his clients to seek the medical attention they required and averting the potential for an unnecessary application of pesticides.
Not all K9 alerts can be immediately verified due to inaccessible areas, but a total failure to even look is really inexcusable.
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