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Bomb dog looks forward to upcoming retirement

Bomb dog looks forward to upcoming retirement
Bomb dog looks forward to upcoming retirement | MPD bomb dog

Rugby, a yellow lab who’s been with the Martin Police Department as a bomb dog for eight years.
In dog years, he’s  almost 65 years old, time to retire. At the end of April, Rugby the Martin Police’s “bomb dog,” will be hanging up his ATF collar and seeking sunspots around the yard just like any other household pet.
The yellow lab will be replaced in May by a golden retriever financed through a Department of Homeland Security grant.
Patrol officer Marty McClure has been Rugby’s handler for eight years. During that time, the team has been on several “call-outs,” giving Rugby the chance to sniff out “anything that will explode.” He has been at the scene for bogus bomb threats at the high school to officer shootings in Jackson and Martin.
Though he has not found any actual bombs that needed to be defused, he has sniffed out shell casings that were useful in a case of an officer shooting. Rugby was trained to detect one odor, anything with gunpowder in it, including residue left on the hands of someone who recently shot a weapon.
The dog has red lettering on his collar that reads ATF Explosives K-9. Dangling from his collar is a picture ID that identifies him as canine:Rugby.
McClure, a patrol officer with the Martin Police for 13 years, says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms trains the dogs at their offices in Front Royal, Virginia. He went up to Virginia for the 10-week training.
The ATF had already been training the dog for six weeks prior to that. McClure explains that the ATF picks its dogs from programs training seeing-eye dogs. He says that many dogs are deemed unsuitable for that program because they are too “curious,” pulling on their leashes when they see something interesting. These dogs are rejected as seeing-eye dogs because they might leave the blind person they are supposed to be guiding.
But a curious dog makes a good explosives dog; “it’s not a bad thing.”
Litters of dogs that are considered candidates for explosive dogs are named alphabetically. Rugby came in the “R” litter of yellow labs.
McClure who lives near the station is required to keep his dog at home where he can quickly be picked up for a call. Everyday he must reinforce Rugby’s training by connecting his feeding to his sniffing.
“I keep a variety of training aids,” says McClure, including cans he has lined up upstairs for rainy days. “The only way he gets fed is to find the scent of an explosive.”
When Rugby picks up the smell of gunpowder, he sitsdown and points his nose in the direction of the smell. He is trained not to bark or get excited. “We don’t want him to key off a bomb with sound or motion.”
For a dog trained to perform such a formidable task, Rugby appears to be pretty low key, lolling around the parking lot. Perhaps he’s contemplating his golden years of retirement at the McClure home.

wcp 4/14/11

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