Online Originals: ECU ‘Super Hero’ dog sniffs out dangerous bacteria

Online Originals

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Harley isn’t your average beagle.

She’s a dog saving lives by detecting the bacteria Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff.. with her extra special nose.

This is a bacteria that inflame the colon and is often found in health-care facilities. It causes symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and blood in the stool.

“Well, her nose is a lot better than my nose, and I mean a lot better. If I can smell something, Harley smelled it about a mile ago. She’s that good.”

– DR. Paul cook, physician at ecu’s brody school of medicine

Her owners Keith and Laura Pittman found her online.

She was originally owned by people who breed rabbit hunting dogs, but Harley didn’t like it.

Keith and Laura Pittman with Harley.

The Pittman’s quickly adopted her and started training, which took eight months.

Now, once you take Harley’s leash off, the command “search” puts her right to work.

Keith says it takes her about two minutes to clear an area like a patient room or medical cart.

When Harley finds a spot she detects the bacteria, she’ll sit down.

Harley and her owners work with ECU’s Brody School of Medicine Physician Dr. Paul Cook to sniff out and exterminate C. Diff.

Once Harley alerts them of an infected spot, Dr. Cook will then clean it with bleach and other cleaning products.

Dr. Cook and Harley have become good business partners.

“You’ve gotta get the right dog,” says Cook.

“What I know is, I’m not a dog trainer, but Harley’s very good. She’s very special, and Keith has done a remarkable job of identifying her and training her. I think it’s really an attribute to him of doing this work.”

The Pittman’s take her to Vidant twice a week to sniff out C. Diff..

“It’s really gratifying to know that we are helping to keep patients healthy in the hospital.”

– Keith Pittman, Harley’s owner

Right now, Harley is the only know dog detecting C. Diff in hospitals in the United States.

Keith says Harley likes to use her off time by barking, playing, and laying on the couch watching TV with them.

They plan to breed her in the future because she’s such a special dog.

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