Have Paws. Will Travel.

Posted: July 30, 2019

“Have paws, will travel,” is the slogan of Montana Black Dog Services, a locally-run business, owned and operated by Deb Tirmenstein, a Frenchtown resident and MEC Member. With over 25 years of experience in search and rescue and canine detection, Deb was drawn to utilize her skill set to further help the communities of Western Montana and beyond!

In 2013, Deb welcomed two Black Labrador Retriever sisters, Ismay and Rosebud, into her family. Their mother, who is also Deb’s dog, was a Cadaver Dog in her earlier years and passed her talent for detection to her pups. Ismay and Rosebud, affectionately referred to as, “the sisters,” have trained to become Invasive Mussel Detection Dogs, completing their initial mussel training in 2016. Their advanced training (and keen noses!) help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive Zebra and Quagga Mussels through early detection, prevention and education. Aquatic invaders, often referred to as Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), are responsible for millions of dollars of damage annually. AIS can adversely impact power plants, irrigation equipment, municipal water supplies, recreation and our aquatic ecosystems.

Sniffing out mussels in the nooks and crannies of motors, hull fittings and ballasts, the sisters are a complement to human inspectors, who may otherwise not have access to these tight, hard-to-reach spaces. When the dogs detect a mussel, they alert Deb with a trained indication or alert. “They were taught to use their natural responses from when they were puppies – one sits when she’s spotted something and the other sits and barks,” Deb explained. Also certified in Cadaver Detection, the sisters have been taught to search methodically and work with the wind to detect AIS.

The sisters don’t take their jobs lightly either! Deb shared that, “They wear these little booties and vests when they are “on the job,” so when you pull them out of the closet, they go nuts! One is so serious you just want to laugh at her.” Deb expanded on the sisters’ relationship, “They get jealous of one another. If one is working and the other isn’t, they’ll whine and cry.”

These hard-working, social sisters aren’t simply used for watercraft inspections, but are also used for shoreline searches and educational programs. From local Mussel Walks and campground presentations, to the Swan Lake Huckleberry Festival and an AIS Educators Training, the sisters engage their high-energy and love of detection, to educate groups of all ages.

Deb’s favorite questions tend to come from the children, “I’ve been asked many times if my dogs ever get to come into the house.” Deb laughed and continued, “Then I tell them, “Yes! They actually sit on my couch and watch Animal Planet.” The children who participate in these educational programs are also highly impressionable. Deb expanded, “The dogs add interest to the topic and earn the kid’s buy-in. Kids are motivated to make sure their parents have a clean boat.” She chuckled and recalled a recent child’s lecture to his father, “Dad, you didn’t wash your boat!”

Are you interested in meeting “the sisters” or engaging their expertise? Montana Black Dog Services is a licensed and insured operation and their team is readily available to train, assist and educate. Montana Black Dog Services offers flexibility and a variety of options, tailored to meet your needs. And of course, they “have paws and will travel.”

Montana Black Dog Services

  • Deb Tirmenstein
  • mtblackdogservices.com
  • dtirmen@montana.com