Termite tracking dog

FOREST HILL, LA -- She's a good employee. Sure, she needs a haircut, she's kind of stinky and she tends to jump on strangers—but she happily works just for food.

She's Sinko, a termite-sniffing, shaggy, black cocker spaniel mix. That's right, Sinko is specially trained to sniff out termites.

Like any good employee, she's barely ever wrong—more than 97 percent accurate, according to her handlers.

Sinko will be a guest performer at next weekend's Louisiana Nursery Festival in the Rapides Parish town of Forest Hill.

She showed off Wednesday for a group of reporters and photographers, correctly sniffing out hidden termites several times, although she took a few breaks to sniff a camera lens.

Sinko is one of two termite-sniffing dogs in Louisiana. She was trained by a Florida man who also trains dogs to sniff out more dangerous stuff such as explosives, drugs and guns for law enforcement.

While termites may not present immediate danger, they can be destructive, said Ramsey Smith with the LSU Agricultural Center.

Smith, who specializes in the study of the Formosan subterranean termite, said the insects cause several million dollars in damage in Louisiana each year.

Smith will talk at the Louisiana Nursery Festival about termites and what the nursery industry can do to keep the little buggers at bay.

Former U.S. Rep. Clyde Holloway, who owns a nursery in Forest Hill, said termites haven't been a problem in Forest Hill yet, although they've devastated New Orleans and occasionally infest other areas of the state.

Nursery growers already have to be extra careful about the soil and materials they import and export because of other harmful insects, Holloway said.

Nestled in pine hills, the town is about 10 miles north of Evangeline Parish. The official population is about 450.

At last count, at least 200 nurseries had started there, Holloway said.

Forest Hill is at the center of Louisiana's $100 million-a-year nursery industry, which more than justifies its 'Nursery Capital of the World' title.

The festival, held March 16, 17 and 18, draws thousands every year, Holloway said.

Sinko will be sniffing historical buildings in Forest Hill, including the Southern Forest Heritage Museum on March 17.

Speakers include scientists from the LSU Ag Center, other nursery growers and termite experts.

Besides the nursery parade March 17, which will feature floats decorated in flowers, there will be carnival rides, 175 booths, educational talks and food.