a nifty dog in a million

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Meet officer Sparky, the most famous police sniffer dog in South Africa right now, and the only canine trained to sniff out hidden cash in the country.

And no place is inaccessible for Sparky. It all started when his handler, Inspector Stroppie Grobbelaar, realised that there was a need to train a dog to sniff out stolen money.

Grobbelaar did some research, and with the help of the national forensic laboratory in Pretoria, extracted unique scents found in bank notes.

"There is nothing else on earth that smells like notes. We trained him to be able to identify those scents. It took us time to get it right but we finally did it," said Grobbelaar.

The dog cannot sniff out fake money and coins because fake notes are usually tainted, while coins have various scents and are made from different types of metals.

Sparky's biggest "sniff" so far was the discovery of the R2,8 million stolen from an FBV cash management van at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Mall in Soweto.

Four men were arrested for the theft.

Sparky managed to sniff out the loot that the thieves thought had been safely hidden away. And as a reward, he enjoyed a roasted Nando's full chicken

During a demonstration for Sowetan, the two-year-old border collie sniffed out a rolled note stuck in a crack in a wall.

Grobbelaar takes out a small ball and rubs Sparky on his chest to prepare him for a sniff. "He does not see this as work but as play - because we use the little balls that he always plays with."