Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Dog Sniffs out Bedbugs for Norman Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Dog Sniffs out Bedbugs for Norman Business

Article excerpt

Glen and Christen Collymore had the entrepreneurial itch, so after looking for ways they could make money and be their own boss, they settled on a rather unusual line of work.

They got into the bedbug business.

The Collymores, of Norman, started K9 Special Forces a few months ago. Their sole focus is finding bedbugs, thanks to the supersensitive nose of Liberty Belle, a 2-year-old beagle certified in bedbug detection. Liberty Belle is trained to sniff out live bedbugs or their eggs, an entomological epidemic the Collymores said is sweeping toward the middle of the nation from both coasts.

The Collymores were drawn to the profession for its low overhead - dog food, insurance - and potential to travel. But building a bedbug detection business is challenging, they said, because property owners fear what will happen if people find out about an infestation. However, ignoring bedbugs won't make them go away.

"The business had an appeal for us," Glen Collymore said. "There is no brick and mortar, and the numbers were right, so we decided to pursue it. Compared to a more normal business with employees, the cash flows were appealing to us."

The Collymores bought Liberty Belle for $10,000 from a trainer in Florida. She was a former show dog who didn't make it in that arena because her temperament was more suited to working, he said. The couple trained with her for a week before returning home to start the business.

Liberty Belle can detect even one bug or its egg, something the human eye can't do nearly as efficiently or accurately. Indeed, her success at doing so depends on that sensitivity. Because she is certified by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association, she must be annually retested, a pass-or-fail situation. Detecting dead bedbugs isn't an option.

To keep Liberty Belle's skills sharpened, the Collymores put her through training exercises at least three times a day, Christen said. She must be able to work in a multitude of settings and be able to focus on the bugs even if there's a hot dog or her favorite toy lying nearby. Test vials of dead and alive bedbugs provide the test.

So far, the Collymores' real work has come through referrals from pest control agencies, Christen said, or hotel owners or apartment managers find them through online searches. …

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