Eba, a mixed-breed dog, was only weeks old, weighing 3.5 pounds, when she was abandoned near an animal shelter in Sacramento, California. Freezing, damp, and lethargic, Eba had to be warmed up by the shelter staff before her temperature could be taken.
After months of tending and a foiled escape, Eba endured, and now, assists Dr. Deborah Giles, her parent and killer whale researcher at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.
Eba participates at the center’s Conservation Canines program which employs high-energy and toy responsive rescue dogs who sniff out wildlife excrement or scat for research. When they first met, Giles recalled not guessing Eba could be more than her pet. Giles, however, observed that Eba kept dropping balls on her co-worker’s hand, egging her to play.
Obtaining permission from their program director, Dr. Samuel Wasser, Giles then had Eba accompany her to observe Southern Resident killer whales off Washington’s San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands. Eba proved perfect on water. Her weight and lower center of gravity enabled her to stand upright and self-assured.
For weeks, Eba trained to detect the orcas’ scat, and just on her second workday, Eba was able to detect her first scat. Now a social media and TV celebrity, Eba remains the same excitable dog, especially on water. Research of the area’s 74 resident orcas remains crucial to policy-making and public knowledge. Through excrement study, biologists determine stress levels, pregnancies, and vital survival information.
Images & Feature Image Source: Dr. Deborah Giles / Courtesy of UW/Center for Conservation Biology