California Beagle Has Nose for R.I. Termites
A 5-year-old California native is the best termite detector on the job and one of the best all-around workers at a city pest-extermination company, his boss says.
Every morning, Darryll dons a red collar imprinted with the words “termite dog,” while his handler pulls on a white lab coat. Then man and beagle head for a house, factory or other building to let Darryll have a sniff at the woodwork-crawling critters.
Darryll got local attention in a rap-music commercial a few months ago that featured puppets praising the dog’s skills. His portrait graces the company’s Yellow Pages advertisement.
Darryll is leased from TADD Services of Belmont, Calif., for $30,000 for two years, said Dave Pontes, general manager of New England Pest Control. TADD stands for Termite Ant Detection Dog.
TADD Services begins training puppies when they are 8 weeks old and sends them to their first jobs when they are 8 to 10 months old.
TADD Services has 60 to 70 termite-sniffing dogs in the United States, but “our dog Darryll is the only dog in New England,” Pontes said.
So far, Darryll, who has been with New England Pest Control nearly 4 1/2 years, has never failed to detect a termite in a wood-boring inspection, Pontes said.
“When a human does an inspection, they’re only guaranteed by what they can see,” Pontes said, and company officials are quick to explain that to their customers.
But with Darryll, “We guarantee the house from the basement right through the ceiling,” Pontes said. “He finds termites with a sense of smell and hearing. I would say in the four years we have had him, he’s done 3,500 inspections.”
Darryll’s expertise does not come cheap. The company charges a minimum of $125 per building. Customers pay a starting price of $70 per building for human inspectors, Pontes said.
New England Pest Control has a $1-million errors-and-omissions insurance policy for Darryll, as well as a $25,000 life insurance policy, Pontes said.
When Darryll is 8, Pontes said, he will be sent back to California, deprogrammed, then returned to Rhode Island and given to handler Clarence Cornell as a pet.
Darryll currently stays with Cornell at his Coventry home, along with Cornell’s two Shetland ponies, three cats and another dog, Pontes said.