When humans smell any type of feces, they feel disgusted. But when Eba the mixed-breed dog smells whale poop, she’s overjoyed. That’s because Eba has learned to associate whale scat with toys.
Eba was on the brink of death as a puppy until killer whale researcher Deborah Giles adopted her. Giles never planned for Eba to help save the whale population, but now the rescue pup is a star. Eba uses her poop-sniffing skills to save endangered whales.
From Rescue Dog to Rescuer
Poor Eba was only a few weeks old when someone abandoned her outside an animal shelter in California. She was only 3.5 pounds and in critical condition. She was cold, wet, and lethargic, so she needed to be put on a heating pad right away. Once she finally warmed up, the shelter staff knew she’d have a great life ahead of her.
Eba got into trouble a few times in foster care, but she eventually went on to find a forever home with Giles. Giles intended to only have Eba as a companion, but as she got to know her, she realized the pup could be the perfect addition to the “Conservation Canines” program. Conservation Canines is a program that rescues shelter dogs and trains them to detect wildlife scat.
The conservation canines are high energy dogs who are easily motivated by toys. When Giles saw the way Eba tried to get humans to play with her, she knew she had to at least try to train her furry friend. She took Eba with her on a boat in the Salish Sea. She tried to train Eba to locate the scat of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
Thankfully, Eba turned out to be a natural poop-sniffer. After only a few weeks of training, she was ready for work.
“By Eba’s second day on the water — July 6, 2019 — she found her first wild whale scat by herself, which was amazing,” Giles said.
Eba the Whale Dog
Eba has become a bit of a celebrity since she began her role. She has her own website, social media pages, and even an episode on the Disney+ show, It’s a Dog’s Life. But most importantly, she is doing her part to save killer whales.
Currently, there are only 74 Southern Resident killer whales. The biologists can learn a lot about them just from observing whale scat. They can determine the whale’s stress levels, if the whale is pregnant and how far along, what the whale ate, and if there are any chemicals or pollutants in the scat.
As massive as whales are, whale poop is often small and difficult for humans to find. Also, the researchers try to keep their distance to avoid disturbing the whales. So, Eba’s role is crucial to helping the team learn about killer whales.
“That’s where the dog comes in because they can smell these things from a mile away — literally a mile away,” said Giles.
For the most part, Eba just hangs out on the boat. When she smells whale scat, she’ll whine and run toward the edge of the boat. She’ll even signify which direction the feces is. Of course, she always gets to play with an awesome toy after a job well done.
Eba might not realize what an incredible hero she is, but her co-workers sure do. This sweet rescue pup was once on the brink of death, but now she’s working hard to save other animals in need. She is an inspiration to many dogs and humans alike!