A FOUR-YEAR-OLD WITH A NOSE FOR EXPLOSIVES

Sweden There are more than sixty exciting jobs on the payroll of a nuclear power plant, ranging from nuclear physicists and welders to fuel-exchange and communications personnel. Some employees do their job on all fours: meet Zäta, four years old, an ambitious colleague doing a vital job.

Tell us about your typical day at work?
 "I work at the vehicle and goods security checkpoint and sniff out cars, lorries and goods to make sure that no explosives or other illicit materials get onto the Ringhals site. As soon as I wear my official collar, I know I can FINALLY have a good sniff around! If I detect the smell of explosives, I know I’ll get to play with my ball. I would really like to play with my ball all the time, so I’m really thorough. We work methodically, master and I, so nothing escapes my nose. We’re the best team in the world," he says.

How did you get the job as a sniffer dog?  
"My master heard about me when I was little and lived with a family that really didn’t have the time I needed, but they noticed I was clever and had lots of energy. That was a stroke of luck, as I am exactly the kind of dog my master was always looking for: full of energy, bold, with a genuine interest in sniffing things out (master’s words) and extremely playful. I’m also a bit stubborn and don’t give up easily."

 "In incompetent hands I might well have become what humans call a problem dog, but now that I’ve got an important assignment for all my energy, I am a dog with potential."

"To be honest, I’m not that sociable or interested in other people apart from my master. All kinds of fun and exciting things happen around him, and that’s enough for me," says Alsatian Zäta.

When are you happiest at work?
"When there’s a lot to do, ideally twenty-two lorries before lunch. Master says I never get tired, and he’s quite right. He also says I work like the world’s best vacuum cleaner, which is a bit undignified for a professional of my calibre. I am bold and meticulous – not everyone dares to climb as high or run along grid floors as I do." 

A balance between work and leisure is important. How do you relax?  
"My master and I have a family we live with. To be honest, I’m not that interested in other people apart from my master, but am happy to keep a watchful eye on the youngest members of the family. I am good at relaxing and recovering at home. But if I’m out of action for too long, I remind master that we have a job to do. I then follow him around everywhere so he gets the message."

What about opportunities for career development?
"As I learn quickly and am good with my nose, I will be getting further training as a tracker dog, and then master and I will go out on patrol duty. We will start training by tracking outside the site and sniffing out uninvited visitors, and that will be an exciting further step in my career. I don’t expect to retire for the next five years." 

"We will start training by tracking outside the site and sniffing out uninvited visitors, and that will be an exciting further step in my career. I don’t expect to retire for the next five years,” says the four-year-old.

What about your relationship with your line manager?
"You mean master? It’s absolutely brilliant. He is my boss, playmate and daddy: we are really close, as happens when you both work and live together. We play a lot (or train, as he says), making sure that our sessions get a bit more challenging all the time. He often encourages me and that helps me keep alert and meticulous at all times.  We dogs are tested regularly, and master says it would be embarrassing if we were not up to scratch. Master’s aim is that we and the other teams here at Ringhals shall be the best at what we do. That’s fine by me."

Don’t you get tired of sniffing?
"At times, but my boss makes quite sure that we take our breaks regularly so we can chill out. And I am never allowed to work as long as I would like to – after all, I don’t want to miss any opportunity of playing with my favourite ball…"

Zäta and his master Lee Hellekant work for security company Nokas.

Related content