Things That Matter

We Don’t Deserve Dogs: Our Furry Friends Are Helping Deliver Groceries In Colombia And It’s Too Perfect

Once again, dogs prove that they really are our best friend. And they’re proving themselves to be “essential workers” as the world continues to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.

As social distancing measures became mandatory across Colombia – and the world for that matter – one market in Medellín enlisted the help of their dog Eros, who has helped deliver groceries to local residents who are high-risk of Coronavirus infection.

Dogs are essential workers in some Colombia towns as they help deliver groceries to high-risk residents.

Across the world, social distancing and no-contact delivery have become the norm as communities try to reduce the risk of Coronavirus infection. In Colombia, a dog has joined a force of ‘essential workers’ during the pandemic as he helps to deliver groceries to people at higher risk of Coronavirus complications.

Eight-year-old Eros trots through the streets of this hilly city of Medellín several times a day with a straw basket held in his mouth, plying vegetables, fruit and packaged foods to customers. The friendly Labrador Retriever has been helping the store owner and customers with deliveries in exchange for treats and and few scratches and cuddles.

OK, but a dog doesn’t know people’s addresses so how does he make deliveries?

Credit: Luis Benavides / Getty Images

When the shop first opened, Eros would accompany the store’s owner as she made deliveries to local residents. Over time Eros remembered customer’s names and where they lived, since most greeted him with treats. With some fine tuning, he has learned to go to their houses on his own simply by telling him the name of the delivery customer. According to the store owner the four-legged delivery personnel is super adamant that he be rewarded for his work with a tip: he won’t leave your house until you give him a treat.

The dog knows the names of about five or six of the store’s regular customers and drops by their home to bring in items. The store’s owner sends Eros with a receipt in the basket and the customers pay the bill through a bank transfer.

Although numbers are high, compared to its neighbors in Latin America, Colombia has escaped the worst of the Coronavirus.

As of July 16, Colombia has recorded more than 165,000 cases of Coronavirus and almost 6,000 people have died. Although these numbers show that Colombia is experiencing its own Covid-19 pandemic, compared to other countries across South America, Colombia has fared quite well.

Many credit the lower numbers to the government’s strict lockdown orders at the beginning of the crisis. City governments had to impose strict social distancing measures, limiting the number of days per week that people can go shopping and even shut down their international borders to all travelers – including Colombians trying to return home from abroad. Many credit these strict measures with helping flatten the curve.

The country has also launched a pilot program using dogs to help sniff out the virus.

Aside from dogs helping to deliver groceries, the country has also launched a study – similar to others around the world – to use dogs to help sniff out the Coronavirus in humans.

Medellín has decades of experience training canines to sniff-out illegal drugs, contraband foods and explosives. While working the frontline of narcotics interception at airports and other entry points continue, researchers from the Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Nacional and the University of Wisconsin have teamed up on a project to teach sniffer dogs how to detect the odor of COVID-19 in symptomatic individuals.

Joining other similar studies around the world in which dogs can detect infectious diseases, cancers and Parkinson’s with incredible accuracy, six dogs are in training sessions. The objective is to increase COVID-19 detection capacity among 100 dogs.

According to doctor and researcher Ómar Vesga Meneses, to carry out the project, saliva samples were taken from 12 patients infected with coronavirus and receiving treatment at San Vicente Fundación hospital in Medellín. Although dogs have outstanding metrics in diagnosing 99% of cases, the investigation is currently focusing on persons with confirmed cases of Coronavirus.

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