Chapter 53

A Spectral Solution: Haunted Hounds have the Detectives Hunting for Hints

📂 Case overview: A mysterious case is bought to the detectives leading to one of their most complex and harrowing adventures to date. Reports of yellow-eyed haunted hounds becoming possessed, stumbling aimlessly, and foaming at the mouth have petrified pet owners. Nobody knows what has caused the phenomenon, but they are desperate for a solution. Join the detectives as they hunt for hints and find a spectral solution to the spooky specters.

“Look out! It’s coming!”
There was a thin, crisp, continuous patter from somewhere in the heart of that crawling bank. The cloud was within fifty yards of where we lay, and we glared at it, uncertain what horror was about to break from the heart of it. It was pale and exultant, his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight. I sprang to my feet, my mind paralyzed by the dreadful shape which had sprung out upon us from the shadows of the fog. A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.

“What are you reading?” asked Cornlumbo as he entered the detective’s office. Miss Mapple was almost finished reading ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. She explained the story to Cornlumbo, who was intrigued by the intricate plot and methods that solved the case. Nancy Beef and Eggcule Poirot then arrived and made coffee as they awaited the arrival of Shallot Holmes, who suddenly burst through the door covered in sweat. “Have you seen the news, detectives? It’s seemingly unbelievable, which is why we need to figure it out,” he said desperately. The detectives each looked on in bewilderment, “It’s the haunted hounds appearing across the country; you must have heard about them,” continued Holmes. “Haunted hounds?” questioned Miss Mapple as she looked at Cornlumbo in disbelief. “Well, that’s what they’re calling them on the news; obviously, I think it’s nonsense as I believe there is a rational explanation for everything; it’s just a matter of deduction. We must look at the facts as they present themselves. Are you with me, detectives?” asked Holmes. The detectives were intrigued and immediately gathered facts from the reports.

Holmes burst through the door, covered in sweat. “Have you seen the news, detectives? – haunted hounds appearing across the country”

Holmes told the detectives to look for similarities in the cases as this would rule out coincidences. The detectives started to list the similar features of the cases. The dogs had been stumbling, leading people to believe they were possessed. There were also reports of foaming at the mouth and seizures. Nancy Beef said it sounded like rabies; she had seen similar behavior in dogs on her travels; however, the dogs here were vaccinated therefore, it was unlikely to be the cause. “What about heat stroke?” suggested Eggcule. The symptoms fit, but the weather had not been warm enough. Miss Mapple suggested poisoning; she knew xylitol, a sugar substitute, was poisonous to dogs, but it was unlikely that so many cases would occur within a few days; instead, she thought an environmental factor could be the cause, perhaps a polluted water source; however, when they looked at where the reports were coming from, they were spread across the country; therefore, it was unlikely that something in a local environment was the issue. The detectives were running out of ideas.

Cornlumbo suggested canine distemper, a severe viral illness that causes neurological symptoms, including changes in behavior and seizures. Holmes wanted to know more. “You mentioned the symptoms that are consistent with these cases, but we must look for inconsistencies, or we will be blinded by our desire to solve the case,” Cornlumbo asked if the reports mentioned reddened eyes as it would be consistent with the symptoms and the notion that the dogs were possessed or haunted. Holmes searched the reports and noticed something interesting. The reports didn’t mention red eyes, but golden and shining eyes and numerous others mentioned yellow eyes. “Liver failure,” said Eggcule. “Exactly what I was thinking, but what could have caused it? We have ruled out environmental factors,” said Holmes. It then dawned upon him. “How could we, of all people, not have realized?” questioned Holmes. The detectives again look puzzled. “Food, it must be an issue with the pet food. There have been numerous recalls of pet food over the years. I remember the melamine case in 2007 that resulted in pets becoming very ill and dying from consuming contaminated pet food. It led to calls for stricter regulation and greater scrutiny of supply chains,” explained Holmes. With a little more research, the detectives found that the cases had one thing in common, the dogs all ate the same brand of pet food. The detectives immediately headed to the processing facility to continue their investigation.

It must be an issue with the pet food. There have been numerous recalls of pet food over the years

On arriving at the facility, all the employees were in a panic, and they were very happy to see the arrival of the food detectives. They had heard about the ‘haunted dogs’; many of the employee’s pets had also been ‘possessed’. They had already issued a recall of the latest batch of pet food, but they were none the wiser about what could have occurred. “We have produced the same pet food for years now and never had a problem,” the owner said, trying to reassure the detectives. Holmes and the food detectives got to work understanding the process to find out what happened. Holmes asked if they had analyzed the latest batch of pet food. They said they did not test every batch as it took too long to send the product for analysis, and they didn’t receive results until the next day. “And you haven’t recently changed your methods or the ingredients?” asked. Holmes. “No, we follow the same recipe and process we always have,” said the owner. Holmes asked for the latest batch and samples of each of the raw ingredients. The samples were sent for traditional wet chemical analysis as the facility had no means of testing on site. While they waited for the results, the detectives got to work inspecting the manufacturing process, where they noticed room for improvement and optimization.

They did not test every batch as it took too long to send the product for analysis, and they didn’t receive results until the next day

The next day the detectives reconvened at the processing facility. The analysis revealed that the pet food contained a naturally occurring hepatotoxin – a toxic substance damaging to the liver – called indospicine. The detectives found out which raw ingredient contained the toxin and followed the supply chain to find out the source of the contamination. Even though the pet food facility had not changed suppliers recently, one of their suppliers had recently changed where they sourced their raw materials, leading to contamination. The discovery led to reassessing the supply chain to ensure this could not happen again. The pet food manufacturer was keen to know what they could do to prevent it from happening again, as it could be hugely detrimental to their business.

The detectives said the facility had very limited means of determination and that there were many opportunities for improvement. “The most important factor this case has highlighted is the importance of incoming goods inspection ,” said Holmes, who recommended they install NIR sensors at this point in the production process. “As this case has highlighted, even your supplier was unaware of the change in their raw produce. The only way you can be certain about the consistency and quality of your raw materials is to analyze them yourself,” he explained. NIR spectroscopy offers an easy-to-use and rapid analysis system that offers critical measurements of multiple properties in less than a minute. Even though it is unlikely that NIR would be used to analyze specific toxins, changes in parameters measured by NIR may indicate that there has been a change in the supply chain. Holmes recalled a previous case whereby a food supplier with NIR at incoming goods inspection noticed a spike in the protein level in the raw materials received. This led to the company sending a sample for a more detailed analysis by wet chemistry methods to determine what might have caused the high levels of protein analyzed. It turned out that the raw materials contained peanuts because of cross-contamination by one of the suppliers. The food supplier managed to save its reputation thanks to the rapid analysis of NIR checking every batch of raw materials received. “That sounds great, but also very expensive ; we always thought we could trust our suppliers,” said the owner. “One should never assume; it is always better to verify than trust,” said Holmes, who explained the details of the melamine case – the largest-ever pet food recall that turned out to be a case of fraud whereby suppliers had tried to boost the protein content and market price of their produce by adding melamine to the wheat gluten. To assuage the fears of the owner regarding cost, Holmes explained that NIR could also help optimize several of their processes and save them much money . The real-time analysis of NIR during the production process would allow corrective adjustments to be made immediately, and analysis of the final product would ensure the consistency and quality of every batch.

NIR spectroscopy offers an easy-to-use and rapid analysis system that offers critical measurements of multiple properties in less than a minute

Keen to repair any damage to the company’s reputation, the facility installed NIR for incoming goods inspection and at other critical points in their process and went about formulating a higher quality product based on optimized methods. Details of the hepatotoxin were immediately shared so that the haunted hounds could be treated accordingly, and thanks to the quick actions of the food detectives, no animals suffered any long-term illness. The pet food manufacturer also went on to save considerable amounts of money through the process optimizations bought about by the real-time analysis of NIR spectroscopy. The satisfied detectives all enjoyed a meal out to celebrate the success of their spectral solution.