She’s only a few years old.
She doesn’t know how to talk.
But her job here at Skip’s Candies is absolutely crucial.
Chessy is a German Coolie from Prince George in Canada. And although she’s a beloved family pet, she also plays a vital role in our business, helping ensure that our plant remains dedicated to nut-free candy.
“Once or twice a month, Chessy will visit our factory to sweep for peanuts and tree nuts. If even the slightest trace is on the premises, she’ll sniff it out.”
“Their noses are so advanced,” says Kimberly Pietrak-Decher, owner of Skip’s Candies. “When you walk into the kitchen and smell brownie’s cooking, the dog can take that brownie and say, ‘I smell eggs, I smell chocolate, I smell flour.’ They can break down every little component where we can’t.”
While dogs are well known for their heightened sense of smell, it takes a certain amount of training to focus on nuts.
We’re committed to our role as a nut-free candy company. We know how serious allergies can be.
The importance of nut-free candy
“Imagine having a deadly allergy to something that could turn up anywhere,” writes Stephanie Gibeault in an American Kennel Club article on allergen dogs.
“For people with this allergy, keeping peanuts out of their homes isn’t enough — they must be cautious when they’re out in the world, as well. For example, it only takes somebody with peanut butter on his hands to touch something to make it potentially lethal to a person with a peanut allergy.”
That’s where allergen sniffing dogs like Chessy come in.
“It can be impossible for people to detect minute traces of peanuts,” Gibeault writes. “Dogs on the other hand, with their superior sense of smell, can successfully tackle the task.”
It’s the same type of training that lets dogs sniff out drugs, bed bugs or explosives. And like an explosive-sniffing dog, dogs like Chessy can save lives.
Starting when she turned 1, she began working with a trainer who teaches K9 dogs.
At first, we taught Chessy to fetch a rag soaked in peanuts and tree nuts. Once she mastered that skill, we’d hide the rag and have her find it.
“When she found the nuts, she’d get to play with her favorite toy as a reward,” Kimberly says. “They do the same thing with explosive dogs or drug dogs. They reward them afterwards.”
Ideally, we like to have Chessy sweep our plant twice a month. But we have to take care for her not to become soured by not finding nuts.
“Because that’s the goal, not finding anything in there, we have to plant something, usually outside the building,” Kimberly says. “But we have to be creative in how we do things so it doesn’t become too common. They’re smart.”
It’s a mentally taxing job for Chessy.
“When she works, 16 minutes of work is extremely exhausting for her,” Kimberly says. “She can do an hour of dog agility and not be as tired as she is with 15 minutes of using her brain to sniff out peanuts and tree nuts.”
When she’s not in dog agility classes, Chessy enjoys herding the family sheep. She’ll also attend the occasional trade show and do sweeps at our retail store. (We do carry some products with nuts in our retail store, but it’s all safely bagged and packaged. Our plant is devoted to nut-free candy.)
Kimberly’s son has a severe nut allergy, so this is something that hits close to home. Browse our catalogue to explore our selection of nut-free candy, or better yet, pay us a visit in person. Who knows? You might get to meet Chessy for yourself.