“Kody, come. Seek!” Michael Goldman, a thin, gregarious man with tanned skin and short brown hair, snaps his fingers.

The German shepherd-collie mix stands up slowly, with a regal air. He walks with his nose held high, past the upholstered chair and along the leather couch in Goldman’s living room. Then he stops and sits.

“Photo op! Show me, with your paw!” Kody obliges and paws at the cushion covering a vial of live bed bugs.

Bugs are Goldman’s business. In fact, they’re more than business — they’re his life. A certified entomologist, he’s been chasing bugs for the last 30 years. The aquarium sitting on a table in his living room houses not fish, but termites. (Kody knows their smell too.) And small vials of bed bugs are scattered throughout the Thornhill home he shares with his wife, his two university-aged kids and three dogs.

In 2005, Goldman had Kody trained to sniff out bed bugs for his company, Purity Pest Control. Kody was the first dog in Toronto, and quite possibly the world, to learn. Goldman has since taught two more dogs, and his canine crew inspects hospitals, hotels, apartments and houses across the city.

As news of Toronto’s bed-bug epidemic spreads, Goldman gets more false alarms. When he started, he would confirm bed bugs on 90 per cent of visits. That’s down to 20 per cent. Some clients keep evidence of the critters in Kleenex or pill bottles. “I look, and I’m like, ‘that’s lint, that’s lint, that’s… I haven’t a clue what that is, but I know what it’s not.’”

Goldman leans forward on his chair, he presses a vial onto the inside of his right forearm, which is splayed across his leg. It looks like he’s getting his fix, but in fact, he’s giving one. He’s letting the bed bugs feed on him through the mesh lid — keeping them alive for the dogs to practice.

“They’re said to not be a health hazard.” But he thinks that’s just for lack of proof. “So look at the idiot now, who’s feeding bed bugs,” he says, “I don’t even know where they’ve been!”

Despite his job, or rather because of it, Goldman is actually terrified of bed bugs. When he and his wife travel, they inspect the hotel mattress and box spring. If they can separate the headboard from the bed, they will.

“In the middle of the night, I feel something crawling on me, and it’s just my wife’s hair!” It happens a lot, he says. “That’s the nature of the business.”