Federal agents are in town this week to train and test bomb-sniffing K-9s and their handlers. The dogs came from around the state to participate, including OHP's newest addition to the bomb squad, who is living up to his predecessor.
K-9 Bob has come a long way in the few months since he replaced K-9 Nitro, as he and other dogs strive to keep Oklahomans safe.
From local police departments to the Army and the Air Force, a variety of agencies are hoping their K-9s pass the ATF's federally standardized bomb-sniffing test, held at the State Fairgrounds. The traveling event focuses on currently trending chemicals that are not always available. “If there’s an explosive that seems to be used by the bad guys, we will put that on the test to make sure that everybody can detect it,” says ATF K-9 trainer and course developer Cody Monday.
Each dog has to correctly distinguish ten different explosive scents from distractions along the way. K-9 Bob’s OHP handler Lt. Mike Norman says, “Sometimes he will go too fast and he will skip over some stuff. We have to spin him around and get him back on it again, but as he’s figuring out the game, he is slowing down.”
K-9 Bob was recently certified for Oklahoma, but that test is set up like a real world scenario, which is a bit different than this one. “You have a lot more odors confined in a circle, including those distractors that they cannot indicate on,” says Norman.
Some of these compounds are extremely volatile in the real world, but ATF chemists concoct them safely for the dogs to sniff.
While the exercise is all fun and games for the dogs, with lots of treats and love as rewards, their handlers know just how vital and dangerous the job can be. “Their life depends on them,” says Monday, “and that’s why we’re here to support our state and local partners to prevent violent crime.”
About 25 dogs aim to ace the test, but the ATF encourages them to try again next time if they do not. Bob sniffed out success, now joining an elite force of K-9s ready to put nose to the ground to keep us out of harm's way.