Man’s best friend is a home saver

by Will Bryant

Ellen Douglas sits with her bed bug and mold detective, Tracer. Together the team forms Carolina K-9 Detection, a business helping local homeowners and hoteliers locate problems with mold and bed bugs. (Courtesy of Carolina K-9 Detection)

CORNELIUS – When Grace Allen and her husband, Roy, moved into their first house in Columbia, S.C., seven years ago, they were a happy, healthy couple – excited about starting a new beginning together.
Then the sniffles, sneezing and coughing began.
Less than a year after moving in, Roy was diagnosed with asthma and was put on a strict regimen of allergy shots. Not long after, Grace says she was diagnosed with multiple severe sinus infections and ended up needing sinus surgery.
“We looked in our crawl spaces and found mold,” Grace said.
Two years after moving in what was supposed to be a fresh start, the Allens packed up and moved out, yet both swore they wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
Before moving into their new house in Columbia, the Allen’s hired Cornelius resident Ellen Douglas and her trusty dog, Tracer, of Carolina K-9 Detection.
Douglas, a single mother of four, has always been an animal lover. After working years of jobs that never quite struck her passion, she finally decided to pursue a career revolving around something she loved – her pets.
“I’ve had jobs all my life, and I was ready to do something I enjoyed,” Douglas said. “I wanted to find something I would love, not just do.”
At her Cornelius home, Douglas has every kind of household pet you can think of, but her obvious favorite is Tracer, a black labrador-greyhound mix.
Douglas has owned Tracer since October of 2009, when she bought him from Master Dog Trainer Bill Whitstine of the Florida Canine Academy.
Tracer received over 600 hours of training at the Florida academy, where he learned to sniff out mold and bedbugs with pinpoint accuracy, Douglas said.
The process of locating mold in houses can be difficult, but for Tracer it’s almost second nature. Douglas said that after a room is cleared of distractions such as other humans or pets, Tracer can locate problem spots within seconds.
“If she finds something she will sit down in front of it,” said Douglas. “Then Tracer will lay down and point at it.”
After sniffing out the problem, Douglas rewards Tracer’s hard work with a doggie treat, or sometimes with Tracer’s favorite snack, peanut butter.
However, while Douglas is a certified mold inspector, she does not specialize in mold removal. “Dogs are just a tool to find the hidden mold,” Douglas said.
For that service, Douglas says clients need to contact other businesses – and get in contact fast.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, household mold can wreak havoc on a person’s immune and respiratory system. Symptoms of exposure range from nasal stuffiness and eye irritation to more severe reactions like asthma, according to the agency’s website.
The only way to reduce mold in a home is to reduce the amount of moisture. That means cleaning up any damp or wet building materials or furnishings within 48 hours, or reducing indoor humidity with a dehumidifier.
While business has only just started for Douglas, she is already expanding her number of employees – she just had her second dog, Mason, also trained in bed bug and mold detection.
“Working dogs can only work a max of five hours a day, and Tracer gets bored in four and a half,” Douglas said. “Now I can put Tracer in the kennel and finish up with Mason.”
Carolina K-9 Detection has already worked everywhere from office buildings to homes and hotels, Douglas said.
Douglas’ clients are happy for their K-9 search.
“I have two children now,” said Allen. “Peace of mind was worth every penny, knowing our home is going to be safe and mold-free.”

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