Leaf detector's sniffing skills not too Rusty
The velvetleaf-detecting dog Rusty is making waves again, this time winning an award for his sniffing skills.
Trainer John Taylor said Rusty had helped him on search and rescue jobs for years before he learnt to sniff out the plant, deemed a noxious weed, in some parts of the country.
Taylor did not even know he had been nominated for the award until after he had won it, he said.
"It's been a battle getting to that stage of recognition that dogs can be used for that type of work ... that's the important thing, to get the word out there."
Taylor hoped his success would encourage others to train the dogs to detect the weed and he was also looking into training another dog himself.
Eight-year-old Rusty had only a couple of years' work left in him so it was important to train up new dogs, he said.
The weed was easily spread and could rapidly grow to infect large areas by the following year if it was not found early.
"We plan to get in early or else the next year it could be thousands, and the next after that it would be like a carpet," Taylor said.
Not only have Taylor and Rusty worked in Southland, the pair have been helping control the weed up north in Waikato.
Waikato Regional Council pest plant officer for east Waikato, Heidi Pene, said she was "rapt" Taylor won the award, and that his innovation was deserving of the award.
There was a good chance they would get Taylor and Rusty back to do more work in the region on dairy farms and maize crops, she said.
Council pest plant team leader Darian Embling said he was keen to get Rusty back in November, after his previous visit in February.
"He was really good; he did what we needed him to do.
"We see a dog as a real extension of what we do ... he picked up [plants] we would miss with the naked eye."
There were 34 properties infected with the weed in Waikato, with up to 100,000 plants on 40 hectares, and about another 70 properties that were "high risk", meaning they could have come into contact with machinery or silage from infected properties.