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Puddles, the mussel sniffing dog, helps keep waterways free of invasive species

Puddles was surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason.”

SPOKANE, Wash. — A 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier helps the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sniff out invasive species traveling through the state.

Puddles the dog uses her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations.

Puddles just started working for WDFW. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation paid for her training as part of the bureau’s fight to keep the Columbia River Basin and Washington state free of invasive mussels.

“We believe Puddles will be a great addition to the Washington invasive species program,” said Heidi McMaster, regional invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Puddles was surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California, where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason.”

Staff as the Green Dog Project contacted Mussel Dogs, a training program for dogs, and Puddles was trained there. WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor spent two weeks in California and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah training with her.

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over six years, and the power industry more than $3 billion.

So far, Puddles has detected seven contaminated vessels.