Dogs walking around parks and other public areas in Zaragoza, Spain, are now much safer. After drawing attention to several animals that have died, and received complaints about poisoned food, the city now has a new animal shelter: Albatrox. This beautiful dog saves the lives of other dogs by discovering toxins found in food.
Albatrox, from stray dog to local hero
Until a few years ago, this noble border collie wandered the streets. But he was lucky enough to be picked up by the staff at the municipal office for animal welfare in Zaragoza City Council.
While there, the dog Alfonso Martinez caught the attention. Martinez saw the potential of this dog, and he was sure he could train him to detect various toxins. After several cases of poisonous traps for dogs in public places, the members of this organization searched for a dog that could help them sniff out toxins, but without success.
But all that changed when Albatrox arrived. Martinez points out that the reasons why the animal was abandoned are probably the same ones that make him so effective at detecting toxins: his restlessness and nervousness.
A dog that saves the lives of other dogs by detecting toxins in food
Albatrox was probably abandoned due to the then owner’s lack of patience and responsibility. We should also add that he is a very active dog. This dog, who is now saving the lives of other dogs, was rescued in 2014 when he was about 3 years old. His ability to detect toxins changed the fate of both him and other dogs.
The Border Collie responded positively to the training he received. He could find toxins that people hid in dog food. This toxic food was then left in parks and other places with the clear intention of killing dogs.
Martinez worked with Albatrox for about six months to turn the important job of tracking these substances into a fun game for the dog. He trained the dog to lie down when he discovered poison, without touching it. When Albatrox does the right thing, Martinez rewards him with a ball that he can play with.
The difficult task of discovering toxins turns into a fun game
Albatrox knows when to go out to detect toxins because his trainer wears a special harness. When this happens he gets very excited because for him this is part of a fun game. Martinez and Albatrox make daily tours in two or three areas of the city that have been randomly selected. If these areas are non-toxic, the trainer hides a false bait so Albatrox can find it. The idea here is to prevent him from getting frustrated and let him be successful.
His coach knows that this is not an easy task. In Zaragoza, there are more than 200 green areas where toxins need to be traced. Their job becomes easier when they receive specific reports on suspicious objects.
We are looking for a partner for Albatrox
There is also another danger to dogs besides poison. There are an incredible number of people who leave food for animals and hide sharp pieces of metal inside. When a dog eats these, they cause fatal wounds in the dog. In these cases, Albatrox can not help, as he is only trained to detect chemical substances. This is why the Animal Welfare Office is looking for dogs with the right characteristics to perform this particular task.
What is likely to happen is that Albatrox will get a playmate who accompanies him on the task of saving the lives of other dogs who innocently approach a bite to eat, which hides a deadly trap.
A dog that can detect toxins in food has received the recognition it deserves
The truth is that Albatrox went from being a stray dog to a local hero in a very short time. And it did not take long before people began to realize what a treasure he was. The famous official veterinary college in the province of Zaragoza, for example, gave an award to Albatrox, which he shares with his trainer. It was a recognition of the commitment to work with institutions and animals.
He also received the Zarapeluda Prize for his work against animal cruelty. This was part of an event that animal lovers organize annually to promote responsible care of pets. In this case, the organization Albatrox gave the award for being “the guardian angel of our parks”.