You know when you talk to your dog like a human and they tilt their head in confusion? I made the same move when I heard about NASCAR’s plan to bring very good boys and girls to detect COVID at Sunday’s Cup Race in Atlanta.
“We think that these dogs and this capability is going to allow us to rapidly confirm that all of those people entering the essential footprint on Sunday — that’s race teams, that’s NASCAR officials, that’s the vendors that work inside the garage — all those folks are COVID-free or not,” Tom Bryant, NASCAR managing director of racing operations, said in the announcement.
I’ve seen bomb and drug sniffing dogs at airports, sports arenas, and other tourist attractions before. But how can they detect COVID? I wondered.
Well, the science isn’t 100 percent certain, but early data seems very promising.
Before the pandemic, trained dogs could identify other infectious diseases like colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and malaria. Now, a few studies suggest that dogs can be used to detect COVID by smelling your sweat.
One pro sports team, the Miami Heat, has already implemented K9’s to sniff out the virus in fans outside the arena. Matthew Jafarian, Miami’s executive vice president of business strategy, told Forbes the dogs have been “really successful.” And in Finland, dogs at Helsinki airport can detect COVID at nearly 100 percent accuracy.
NASCAR will partner with 360 K9 Group this weekend for a “trial run” before fully releasing the hounds. But 360 K9 says their four legged partners can identify the virus in under 30 seconds.
Under 30 seconds? My head is still at 45 degrees thinking about dogs doing their part to help save the human race. But maybe I shouldn’t be so perplexed. I mean, if there was anyone to save us, it would be our four legged friends. And we trust dogs when they’re sniffing other stuff, right?
“No one questions that a dog can sniff a bomb,” veterinary neurologist Holger Volk said after releasing the world’s first study on COVID sniffing dogs. “We trust dogs with our lives and just because we don’t understand what it is they are scenting doesn’t mean it is not there.”
I may not get it, but I’m also not a veterinary neurologist.
Dog’s helping curb the spread of COVID was not on my 2021 bingo card. But if this experiment proves to be successful in Miami and this weekend in Atlanta, I’ll take it. And the rest of the sports world should take note, too.