Our bed bug dogs and handlers are truly a team. Many of our dogs are rescue animals or were reassigned to scent detection work from other canine functions. Handlers and bed bug dogs are certified together, helping them form an incredible working relationship. In fact, many find their forever home with their handler after retirement from the program. We’re proud of all our staff, including our four-legged employees. Learn their stories below:
Meet the Dogs

 

CHASE
Handler: Sarah Atlas
Born: January 2016      Hometown: Millville, NJ


Chase is a Miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie/Wirehaired Dachshund mix. Sarah rescued Chase from a shelter in 2016, and his energetic nature and impressive ability to search for his toys made him stand out from the start as a bed bug dog candidate.

FAVORITE TOY
Anything I can destuff
FAVORITE TREAT
Cheese
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Searching for bed bugs
TRICK
Being cute

FOO
Handler: Matthew Berk
Born: February 2016      Hometown: Richland, NJ


Foo, a black Labrador Retriever, joined the Western team in 2017 after previously being trained as a hunting dog and as a PTSD assistance dog. His youthful energy and eagerness to work make bed bug detection his true calling.

FAVORITE TOY
Any ball that you’ll throw
FAVORITE HUMAN FOOD
Your leftovers
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Finding bed bugs
TRICK
Running in circles

HENRY
Handler: Sarah Atlas
Born: August 2014      Hometown: Millville, NJ


Henry, a Beagle/Basenji mix, was rescued from a shelter after being abandoned at only 15 months old. From the start, he showed an enormous capacity for scent work and has been seeking out bed bugs ever since. Due to excellent training and care received, Henry is a happy working dog.

FAVORITE TOY
Squeak Toy
FAVORITE TREAT
Cheese
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Going for car rides
TRICK
Standing on my back legs

LUKE
Handler: Monique Laperriere
Born: May 2014      Hometown: Bloomfield, CT


Luke is a Dachshund/Patterdale Terrier mix. At 15 months old, he was adopted by Western from the Connecticut Humane Society. His high-level energy made him the perfect candidate to become a bed bug dog. Working with a handler daily has helped Luke overcome his separation anxiety, and he is now an interactive, friendly and excited bed bug finder.

FAVORITE TOY
Towel
FAVORITE TREAT
Soft and chewy milkbones
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Laying in the sun
FAVORITE MOVIE
The Fox and the Hound

RAVEN
Handler: Peter Mattiace
Born: November 2015      Hometown: Vernon, NJ


Raven joined Western in 2017. She’s a Patterdale Terrier with incredible drive, a natural tracking capability and great scent focus. Born with a sight deficiency, Raven had a difficult time getting adopted. But her vision problems made Raven’s nose even stronger, allowing her to become the skilled Western bed bug dog she is today.

FAVORITE TOY
Rolled towels
FAVORITE TREAT
Dog bacon
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Container searches
TRICK
Hiding

REMI
Handler: Matthew Berk
Born: March 2012      Hometown: Richland, NJ


Remi is a black Labrador Retriever who began bed bug training at eight months old. Although he loves downtime, Remi runs out of the door and jumps in the truck when it’s time for work. His tireless work effort and professional attitude make him a joy to work with each day.

FAVORITE TOY
Rolled towels
FAVORITE TREAT
Anything edible
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Finding bed bugs
FAVORITE HUMAN FOOD
French fries

TESS
Handler: Peter Mattiace
Born: April 2014      Hometown: Vernon, NJ


Tess is an energetic Puggle who joined Western in 2015. Her people skills and friendly attitude make playtime with Tess a blast, but once she enters “work mode,” she is an intensely-focused bed bug finder. Tess has come a long way since her days in a high-kill shelter — she’s even rung the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange!

FAVORITE TOY
My pal Raven
FAVORITE HUMAN FOOD
Pizza
TRAINING ACTIVITY
Finding hides
TRICK
Jumping high

Meet the Handlers

 

PETER MATTIACE
Peter has been working with canine bed bug detection programs since his first certification in 2008 and has been a member of Western’s team since 2012. During his tenure, he’s been featured on several television shows such as ABC’s Channel 7 Eyewitness News, CBS’s Early Show and The Discovery Channel’s Monster Inside Me.

Previously, Peter worked with Western’s most senior bed bug dog, Dixie. Dixie started with Western when the Canine Bed Bug Detection program was founded in 2013. She is now retired and lives happily at her forever home with Peter.


Tess

Raven

Dixie

MATTHEW BERK
Matthew joined Western’s team in 2013 and boasts over 15 years of dog training experience. He has put numerous titles on different dogs in four dog sports venues, and his training education includes scent detection, obedience and personal protection. In his spare time, he volunteers at police departments in South New Jersey and Pennsylvania to assist with police dog training.


Remi

Foo

SARAH ATLAS
Sarah joined Western in 2014 and draws on 17 years of experience as a K-9 search specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). There, she worked with canine teams during 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and several other high-profile crises. Sarah also serves as a county resource with a law enforcement-certified human remains detection dog and is the founder of The Search and Rescue Dog Foundation, a nonprofit that helps civilian volunteer search dog handlers unite with partner dogs.


Henry

Chase

MONIQUE LAPERRIERE
Monique joined the Western team in 2016. She is a published canine expert and an eight-time champion in multiple registries for canine showings. Her Western partner-in-crime, Luke, is a Dachshund / Patterdale Terrier mix. Fun fact about Luke: he always chases his tail while waiting for elevators!


Luke

JOSEPH NICHOLAS
Master Trainer
Joe Nick serves as Western’s Master Trainer and is responsible for overseeing all canine training and performance evaluations throughout the year. Joe brings over 30 years of canine experience with his background in law enforcement, corrections and missing persons at the local, state and federal levels. With Joe at the helm of training, Western’s bed bug dogs are trained using the same techniques and protocols as narcotics, arson and bomb-detection dogs.