COVID-19-sniffing dog adds extra layer of protection at Sarasota hospital 

COVID-19 screenings have become a regular practice at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. Now there's an extra tool to help detect the virus. It comes with four legs, a wagging tail and a sensor-packed nose. 

"She loves to smell and sniff things so we just honed in on that unique talent that she has," Laska Parrow, a certified service dog trainer with Southeastern Guide Dogs, explained. 

Buffy is a two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever. She trained for nine months with Southeastern Guide Dogs. 

"We trained on many different patients, positive and negative for COVID," said Parrow. 

She said Buffy's nose is filled with 300 million receptors that can detect changes in a person's immune system. When Buffy detects the virus, she lays down at the person's feet. 

"She is 95% accurate. We did lots of blind trials where the handler doesn't know where the virus is and Buffy does because she can smell it," said Parrow. 

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Deactivated samples of the virus were provided by Doctor's Hospital for training. 

"It's amazing how quickly the dogs have picked up on it. I was surprised and thrilled when I got a call that they wanted to place one of the dogs here," Doctor's Hospital of Sarasota CEO Robert Meade shared. 

When she alerts a code "Buffy" is called. Additional testing is done for free at the hospital to confirm a suspected case. Meade says she's a great addition to the team. When Buffy is done with her shift, she goes home with Meade. His family adopted Buffy. 

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"It's an added resource for us for her to pick up an occasional patient or person that we might have missed," said Meade. 

Aside from her main job, Buffy's playful personality brings comfort to those entering the hospital doors. 

"She's a very cute, fuzzy, happy dog and I’m just glad she’s here to help us with this screening process," said Dr. Eve Sprague. 

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