FIU’s Covid-19 detector dogs vie for top dog title in the Hero Dog Awards®

By Meredith Frameli

FIU’s COVID-19 detector dogs are campus canine heroes, putting their noses to work to ensure buildings and classrooms get the ‘all clear’ and coronavirus free.

Detector dogs Cobra and Mac have been nominated for the 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®. The competition recognizes four-legged superstars – often ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. Voting is underway, and Cobra and Mac need your help to move into the semifinals.

Cobra

Cobra is competing in the Law Enforcement and Detection Dogs category. Cobra joined FIU’s International Forensic Research Institute six years ago to research a fungus destroying Florida’s avocado trees. After scientists isolated the fungus odor, Cobra was imprinted on the scent and began tracking down infected trees. On the hunt for Rapid ‘Ohi’a Death, she also deployed to Hawaii, a disease killing the state’s most abundant native tree species. When the pandemic began, institute researchers got to work isolating the odor of the body’s response to the virus. Cobra quickly imprinted the scent and now sweeps FIU’s classrooms, libraries and shared spaces, methodically analyzing odors. A positive alert triggers sanitation, ensuring students and staff are safe. Vote for Cobra: go.fiu.edu/herocobra.

Mac is competing in the Shelter Dogs category and represents all that’s “pawsible” for a rescue dog. After a “ruff” first five months of life, he was saved from a kill shelter. Full of energy, Mac was a natural at agility and diving and became a freestyle flying disc dog and rescue dog ambassador. He caught the eye of Hollywood and starred in two movies, Robo-Dog and Robo-Dog Airborne. Because of his affinity for tracking lizards, Mac was trained in scent detection and enrolled in a pilot program to sniff out invasive lizards in Florida. Thanks to his proven natural abilities and small stature, Mac was asked to participate in FIU’s COVID Detector Dog program and now works to identify the virus odor on hard-to-reach surfaces larger dogs, like Cobra, can’t easily access. Vote for Mac: go.fiu.edu/heromac

You can cast your votes for Cobra and Mac once per day until May 6. Semifinalists will be announced in late May. Finalists will be determined in July. Winners in each category will be honored on Hallmark Channel’s nationwide broadcast of the American Humane Hero Dog Awards® this October.