Meet Riley, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts’ Newest Volunteer

Who says a puppy can’t donate his time to culture?

There are many different types who volunteer their time at museums. Senior citizens. Rich ladies in Chanel blazers. Kids in art school. How about puppies? No way, you may be saying to yourself right now. Puppies are way too hyper to be let loose among priceless artifacts of Western culture.

Not true. Or at least not at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), which recently added Riley, a 12-week-old Weimaraner, to its roster of volunteers.

Riley wasn’t born a museum volunteer. But he was adopted by a museum employee named Nicki Luongo who, in her spare time, trains police dogs. Could she train her new family puppy, she wondered, to sniff out moths and other insects that damage precious textiles and wood?

The answer is probably. Research has found that despite all of our advances in technology, human instruments still can’t match the power of a canine nose in terms of sniffing out scents. Currently, Riley is being taught to recognize the scents of specific insects; if he finds one on an artwork, he will sit in front of it until a human comes to inspect it.

 

If he is successful at his job — and how could he not be, with a face like that? — then other museums also might start using service dogs to sniff out pests that destroy objects.

The only sad thing about this story is that Riley will not work while the museum is open — because who would want to look at art if there is a Weimaraner puppy wandering around, right? Instead, he will work when the institution is closed to the public. To keep in touch with his adoring public, the MFA is considering creating an Instagram page for him. If they do, we’ll let you know because … um, obviously we all need to follow it.  

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