35 of the Most Bizarre Jobs for Working Animals
Sometimes, people need a little help at work, and the animal kingdom is here to lend a hoof, paw, wing or claw. While most of us are familiar with working animals, some have very unusual (but adorable) professions.
Check out some of the most bizarre jobs that our four-legged friends have been hired to do.
An ‘Employment Agency’ for Mouse Hunters
The Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS) in Marshfield, Wisconsin, aims to give every one of its feral felines a home through its Working Cats program. The shelter currently has four cats that won't do well as indoor pets and is acting as an "employment agency" of sorts by finding potential owners to put them on the job hunting vermin in barns, heated garages and sheds.
Shelter manager Kaitlin Loberg says the program has been working as intended to limit breeding and euthanasia in the area. Holly Henscke, the Medical Care Coordinator at MAPS, agrees: "The best thing for these cats is to live the life that they understand. And, as long as people are willing to provide that life, we're willing to send the cats their way."
A Stray Finds a Job at a Car Dealership in Brazil
In early 2020, staffers at a Brazilian car dealership noticed a stray dog hanging around their building but figured it was just a temporary thing and that he would soon move along. He never did, and manager Emerson Mariano took him one night during a rainstorm. He quickly became a hit with customers and staff alike and was such a good boy that Mariano decided to give him a home and a job at the dealership.
The dog, now known as Tucson Prime, has an I.D. badge, Instagram page and greets customers every day, who give him ample pay in toys and treats.
A Penguin Mascot Is Knighted in Norway
Nils Olav, a resident King Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, has the essential job of inspecting the King of Norway's Guard. He has been given the highest military honor and title a penguin has probably ever received and is now known as Brigadier Sir Nils Olav.
He took his duties seriously during the ceremony as he inspected the Guard, who saluted him as he passed, and he even received a medal for his efforts.
The Dogs Who Help Detect COVID
In Finland, three pups are doing their thing for medical science and the good of mankind. Dr. Anna Hielm-Björkman has been conducting research with her dogs Miina, Kössi and Valo at the Helsinki Airport to detect coronavirus in asymptomatic travelers.
She found that just a few days after the dogs sniffed out the travelers, they started experiencing symptoms. Hielm-Björkman says hers is only one of a few studies showing that dogs can detect the disease through their acute sense of smell.
A Canine Marine Biologist Looks for Whale Poop
Little Eba, a mix left outside a Sacramento shelter, had no idea that not only would she find a wonderful home but a great job to go with it. She was adopted by Dr. Deborah Giles, a killer whale researcher at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology, who not only nursed her back to health but trained her to keep her eye out for whale poop.
Scat allows scientists to learn about the health of the whale and the oceans overall; however, researchers have to keep their distance from the animals, as they don't want to cause them stress. "That's where the dog comes in," Giles said, "because they can smell these things from literally a mile away.”
A Professional ‘Mom’ Named 2020's ‘American Hero Dog’
A 4-pound Chihuahua named MacKenzie uses her skills of compassion and empathy to comfort other rescue animals, which have earned her the distinction of being named 2020's "American Hero Dog." Born with a cleft palate and pneumonia, MacKenzie overcame the odds to provide baby rescue animals born with congenital disabilities the love and care they need to grow.
So far, she's nurtured countless puppies, kittens, a goat, a turkey, a squirrel, birds, a mouse and, despite her tiny size, even a Great Dane in her hometown of Hilton, New York. She also tours schools to teach children to be kind to those with physical differences.
The Dolphins in the Military
While it is common knowledge that dogs are used in military exercises worldwide, dolphins are also known to have great acumen for identifying mines and enemy infiltrators. Recently, Russia's dolphin fleet has been spotted in pens at its naval base in Tartus, Syria.
The U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program uses Pacific bottlenose dolphins for their sonar capabilities, which can detect lost instrumentation and expose threats faster than any man-made technology.
A Beluga Whale Who Worked as a Spy
If dolphins can work in the military, why not whales? In April 2019, a beluga whale called Hvaldimir made his home in the waters around Norway. Scientists discovered he was wearing a harness that read "Equipment of Saint Petersburg" with a camera attached.
The overly friendly whale rubbed up against its share of fishing boats for help removing the harness, and local fisherman obliged. Since then, Hvaldimir has retired from the spy business and makes his home in the waters around Scandinavia, where he pops up from time to time to play fetch with passing boats.
The Rat Who Won an Award for Sniffing Out Landmines
Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, born in Tanzania, has been awarded Britain's highest honor for animals, the PDSA Gold Medal, for sniffing out explosives in Cambodia. He works alongside other rodents to identify landmines and alert his human handler to what he’s found.
He's the top rat in his field — in just four years, he's cleared more than 1.5 million square feet of land and has located 39 landmines and 28 unexploded devices.
The Cat Who Was Mascot to a Maine Observatory
A 12-year-old Maine Coon named Marty was set to retire from his post at Mount Washington Observatory in 2021 but died before he could enjoy his Golden Years. He was adopted from the North Conway Area Humane Society when he was a baby and went on to work on the mountain, greeting staffers and chasing mice.
He was one in a long line of cats to patrol the mountain since 1932. According to a press release from Mount Washington, "The summit feline tradition will continue."
A Sheba Inu Runs a Sweet Potato Stand in Japan
Ken-kun is the canine manager of Dog's Roasted Sweet Potato Stand on Hokkaido's island in northern Japan. His owner is not always nearby, so he and the dog rely on the honor system for payment, and customers are happy to oblige.
To pay for a roasted sweet potato, they pick out what they want and insert 200 yen into a slot next to the stand. While Ken-kun can't count money, he does expect to be paid — in attention and loving pats on the head.
The Honeybees That Monitor Air Pollution
In Frankfurt, Germany, Dr. Bernd Grünewald of Bee Research Institute "hired" a few thousand honeybees to monitor the air around Frankfurt am Main Airport. Their hives are set up close to the international hub, and they collect nectar for up to 3 miles around the airport.
Then, when they turn what they collect into honey, it is studied to give a detailed analysis of pollutants in the environment. So far, researchers have found that there is no difference between the air around the airport and the supposed "cleaner" areas of the city.
The Monkey Signalman Who Never Made a Mistake
In the 1800s, a baboon worked as a signalman at the Uitenhage train station in South Africa and was rumored never to have made a mistake. Known as Signalman Jack, the monkey was discovered pushing a cart in by a man named James Edwin, who trained him to help with railroad duties.
He quickly picked up the job, manning — or monkeying? — the gears and switches for passing trains. During his nine-year stint as a signalman, he was given an employee number and was paid 20 cents a day with the bonus of half a beer a week.
Ferrets Make Great Cable Guys
For nearly half a century, ferrets have been used to run cable and wire in places that are too close for comfort. They are trained with food rewards and outfitted with little harnesses (and cables attached) to run through pipes and other tight spaces that humans just can't traverse.
They've even taken part in setting up major events, such as the broadcast of the wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana. If they're good enough for royalty, you know they know their stuff!
The Fashionable Pup With Millions of Followers
An Instagram influencer known as the "world's most stylish dog" has taken the world by storm by rocking designer couture. The Shiba Inu, Bodhi, dons high fashion looks for men on his Insta page @Mensweardog, where he has nearly half a million followers.
His owner, Yena, used to work for Ralph Lauren but now works full time on Bodhi's budding empire, spending days planning outfits and shoots for her furry fashion icon. She says, "We've collaborated with the best menswear brands in the world. Sometimes, I find an amazing piece and feel compelled to style Bodhi in it because I know he makes everything look a hundred times better."
A Groundhog Who Continues to Make Weather Predictions
Punxsutawney Phil is an American icon who has been letting the country know if we're in for a long winter since 1887. According to organizers, there has only ever been one Phil (who stays forever young with "Groundhog Punch").
Every Feb. 2, legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow, we're in for another six weeks of cold weather. So, how does he "see" his shadow? That's his secret. But know that he's never wrong — his predictions are just "misinterpreted" by humans.
This Smile Maker Is the World's Cutest Therapy Dog
If you've been on Instagram, you probably know about Norbert, the tiny dog that gives high fives and spreads smiles wherever he goes. Norbie primarily works at L.A. Children's hospital as a therapy dog.
Known for his calm demeanor and a tongue that never stays in his mouth, he looks like a toy more than a dog. Norbert has more than 800,000 Insta followers and is a media sensation — he's appeared on countless TV shows, has a series of books, calendars and he's even a stuffed toy.
A Car-Racing Monkey Who Had a Shot at NASCAR Fame
In 1953, race-car driver Tim Flock drove in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series races with his Rhesus monkey, Jocko Flocko, riding shotgun. He even had a special seat and a driving suit. Flock intended for the little monkey to wave at audiences as he cruised to victory past other drivers.
Together, the duo led for more than half the race, and the monkey got plenty of peanuts and attention afterward. On their 10th race together, Flock took the checkered flag, and Jocko Flocko would become the only monkey in history to win at a NASCAR race.
The Elite Group of Dogs on the Hunt for Truffles
The Lagotto Romagnolo is an ancient Italian breed of water retrievers that have been in the truffle game for centuries. You see, truffles can bring big money — they can reach $3,600 a pound — but finding them isn't easy. They grow below ground, and it's only when they're ripe that they're detectible. While any breed can hunt truffles, some dogs are better than others due to the shape of their noses.
Trainer Jim Sanford says that the Lagotto is the best dog for the job: "[It’s a breed] that goes back hundreds of years in northern Italy, which is the greatest truffle-bearing region on earth. If you have a breed that has been used for [hunting truffles], then they will have offspring that are born with an affinity for that."
A Modern-Day Canine Van Gogh
Dagger, also known as "DogVinci," is an abstract painter from Long Island. The crafty canine wears a red beret and is a success in the art world — he's painted more than 500 works of art and, through his paintings, has donated more than $100,000 to charity.
Dagger receives up to 150 commissions a week, but the most important part of his career is giving back to the community by teaching kids they can do anything they put their minds to. At one workshop run by Dagger's owner, an autistic boy picked up a brush for the first time after seeing what the dog could do.
The CIA's Operation Acoustic Kitty That Didn’t Go as Planned
Some animals, like dolphins and whales, are suited to a life of international intrigue. You would think that cats would be naturals, too, but it didn't work out that way when the CIA tried to make them spies in the 1960s in Operation Acoustic Kitty. The agency had a mic implanted in one cat's ear connected to a radio transmitter at the base of its skull. The idea was to get it to sit near foreign officials as they spoke and record their conversations, but fate had other plans.
When they put the spy out in the field, it wandered into traffic and was killed instantly. The CIA's report said: "Our final examination of trained cats … convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs."
The Pet Detective Who Rescues Cats
Franklin, a three-year-old Dachshund-Beagle mix, spends his days searching for cats in distress. Found in a Colorado shelter, owner Katie Albright put him through a 10-week remote cat-detection course where he learned to pick up the scent of felines in trouble.
During the wildfires of 2019 and 2020, Franklin went on a search and rescue mission and found cats whose owners were worried they'd never see them again. Katie doesn't charge for Franklin's services, but a GoFundMe is set up for their travel, cameras and safety gear.
The Gentle Giant Known as 'The Lifeguard Dog'
The Newfoundland is known for being a good swimmer; therefore, an occupation as a lifeguard is a no-brainer. The Italian Coast Guard trains them for this very purpose — these agile and brave canines jump from speeding boats and helicopters to reach swimmers in distress, and they can easily pull a person to shore with their great strength.
To be able to do this, these life-saving pups need at least three years of training before they hit the beach.
A Life-Saving Pigeon Made History During WWI
Black Check Cock carrier pigeon Cher Ami was one of 600 pigeons who did their duty for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during the Great War. On his last mission of carrying messages, he was shot. He made it back to base minus a leg, but with the message intact — the "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry Division was isolated behind enemy lines and needed help.
Almost 200 soldiers were found and saved due to Cher Ami's courage. Cher Ami received the French Croix de Guerre for his heroism and died at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, on June 13, 1919, due to his wounds.
The Conservationist Dogs That Sniff Out Sea Turtles
As we've seen, a dog's keen sense of smell is far superior to humans, and they can root out almost anything you can think of with the proper training. At Texas State University, the dogs from K9s 4 Conservation are trained to locate sea turtle nests. During the spring and summer, the turtles dig holes on Texas beaches to lay eggs.
The pups will sniff up to a foot in sand for eggs and cover a larger distance than their human counterparts. The dogs then alert conservation teams, who spring into action to take care of any eggs that need help.
The Staffordshire Terrier Who Brings Animation to Life
Uuno works for Remedy Entertainment, an animation motion capture studio in Finland. There, he is outfitted with special sensors on his joints and muscles that pick up his movements.
The sensors are fed into a computer, and the animators use them to model animated dogs that do the things real dogs do, such as rolling over or doing the squirrel pose. Unno is paid in plenty of treats and love, of course.
A Dog Who Keeps the Birds at Bay
Pilot works at the Vancouver Airport scaring birds. While it may not sound like the kindest thing he could do, he keeps birds away from airplanes, which is an important element in airport safety.
A bird strike can cause considerable damage to a jet and put the lives of the crew and its passengers in danger. (He also gets to wear the coolest sunglasses we've ever seen on a dog.)
A Friendly, Furry Face at a Maine Elementary School
Elsa Seltzer is a mixed-breed pup owned by Sedgwick School Principal Carla Magoon. Her job is to greet the kids as they arrive and say goodbye at the end of day. Elsa makes everyone who's having a bad day at school feel comfortable and loved.
Sometimes leashed and sometimes not, she doesn't stray too far from Magoon or the kids.
A Stylish Cat Who Works a Fish Market
A cat named Dog (yes, it’s confusing!) works as a fish vendor in Hai Phong, Vietnam. That's strange enough, but his elaborate outfits are what make him stand out even more.
His owner, Lê Qu?c Phong, said Dog is "a friendly guy" who is a hit with locals and tourists alike. His goal is to make this feline ambassador a household name: "I want to promote Dog in Vietnam for people to know more about our country."
A Dalmation Fulfills His Destiny with the FDNY
A Dalmatian puppy named JT has found a home with FDNY Engine Company 74 in Manhattan. The dog was a gift of Patti Trainor-Wrazej — her father was a New York City firefighter for 39 years before he passed away in 2018. The firehouse has always had a dog, and its last was their mascot, Yogi, who died in early 2020 at age 15. When Trainor-Wrazej learned of the dog's death, she wanted to do something special in honor of her dad's memory. JT (named after Trainor-Wrazej's father) has been a comfort to the firefighters after Yogi's passing.
Company 74 senior firefighter John Keaveny said of their new addition, "He is very affectionate, he is a big cuddler. He will lay down and flop right next to us when we are reading a book or watching the news. He is a great companion to all of us.”
A Bernese Mountain Dog Finds His Purpose as a Grief Therapist
A dog can be great comfort to a grieving family, particularly during a funeral. In early 2020, the Macon Funeral Home in Franklin, North Carolina, welcomed Mochi, a Bernese Mountain Dog to support families in their time of need.
She's still completing her training as a grief therapy dog, but her owner, Macon Funeral Home employee Tori McKay, says she's already a natural. "She walked into work for the first time, and immediately she was home. Greeting everyone with affection and finding her place among us every day has been such a joy to watch."
The Resident Stamp-Licker of a Post Office in Scotland
Jax, a dog living in Portree on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is the village's resident post office stamp licker. He walks to work with his owner every day and mans the counter greeting customers and licking stamps.
He's not particularly good at it — he may eat a stamp or two in the process — but his cuteness sure makes up for it, and he's rewarded with plenty of love and attention from the locals.
A Seeing-Eye Horse
We've all witnessed seeing-eye dogs and service dogs, but we rarely come across their equine counterparts. The Guide Horse Foundation trains mini horses to lead the blind and says the animals have a natural propensity to guide in the herd when one of their own goes blind.
They have a better range of vision than a dog because of their eye placement and can see well in the dark. Also, they can live up to 50 years old!
A Friendly Rescue for First Responders
Even first responders need emotional support, particularly firefighters who frequently find themselves in dangerous situations. That's where 2-year-old Golden Retriever Kerith comes in.
This certified therapy dog gives cuddles and kisses to firefighters who need them. Her friendly demeanor with first responders is so welcome, that fire departments request her presence at their stations.
The Adorable Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
There are several small towns throughout the country that have elected dogs as their mayors. But one of the latest local candidates that everyone could agree on in 2020 was a French Bulldog named Wilbur, who became mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.
He beat out 17 other animal candidates, including a rooster, a donkey named Higgins and a therapy dog in a contest sponsored by Rabbit Hash Historical Society. Perhaps he should make them all part of his cabinet!