60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.
Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.
But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.
“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.
“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”
As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.
“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”
(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)
In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”
“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.
“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”
Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”
Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.
In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.
Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.
She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.
Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.
Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.
“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 60 minutes, 911, animals, ax, belgian malinois, bomb, bombing, bombs, boston marathon, budget, chris corbin, cutbacks, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, explosive, fbi, green beret, homeland security, ied, lara logan, law enforcement, mike ritland, military, mines, navy seal, news, nose, pets, searches, security, smell, sniffing, special operations, sweeps, training
Sergeant Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog who finally returned from duty in Iraq earlier this year and was reunited with his former handler, died Saturday at the age of 11.
Rex was assigned to Cpl. Megan Leavey in 2006 when, on a patrol in Iraq, the dog alerted his handler of a nearby bomb. Both tried to run away, but it detonated, injuring them both.
Leavey left the Marine Corps in Dec. 2007, but Sergeant Rex continued to serve. She tried to adopt the dog, but was unable to for years because he remained on duty after recovering from his injuries.
This year, when Rex was retired due to facial paralysis, Leavey renewed her efforts, receiving support form U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and an online petition that received more than 20,000 signatures. In March, Leavey received permission to adopt him. They were reunited in April.
Leavey, who lives in New York, announced Rex’s death last week on her Facebook page:
“Unfortunately today at 10:56 a.m. Rex passed away. I was faced with the decision that no pet owner wants to hear, but I know I made the right choice. This is all very sudden and thankfully he did not suffer for long, this all came about late last night.
“I am so grateful for the last eight months I got to spend with my partner and my best friend. Rex got to swim in a pool and play with my other dogs. He got to roam the yard and bark at deer, play with as many toys as he wanted all day everyday, sleep in a cozy bed next to me every night, chase and eventually make friends with my two cats, enjoy and play in his first snowfall … and so much other great stuff that he would have never had the chance to do if he was never retired.
“He knew I was with him the whole time and I laid next to him and held him and spoke to him and he was at peace in the end. He is now my guardian angel … even though he already was. So thank you to everyone who supported me and made it possible for me to spend those precious 8 months with my best friend.
“He was one hell of a dog, one tough ass Marine, and one very special soul. He will no doubt be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
A book about Rex came out this year, entitled “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog.” It was written by Mike Dowling, another one of Sergeant Rex’s handlers.
Rex searched more than 6,220 vehicles while stationed in Iraq, the Marine Corps says.
The publishers of the new book noted his passing in a Facebook post this week:
“Rest in peace Rex and thank you for your service and sacrifice. Once a Marine, Always a Marine … Semper Fi,” they wrote.
(Photo of Rex and Leavey from tribute posted at Findagrave.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bomb, bombs, bond, book, death, died, dog, handler, handlers, ied, iraq, megan leavey, mike dowling, military, reunion, reunited, sergeant rex, sniffing, war
Navy Captain Bob Dolan died at the Pentagon on 9-11, but his namesake, a Labrador retriever trained in bomb detection, is ready for duty.
The 500th dog to go through Transportation Security Administration training at Lackland Air Force Base — all of them are being named after the 3,000 victims of 9-11 — Dolan is headed for duty in Maui, according to NBC.
NBC first reported on the dog when the TSA announced the birth of the 500th dog destined to enter its Explosives Detection Canine Team program. Dolan got to meet the wife of the man he was named after, Capt. Robert Edward Dolan Jr., on the Today show.
“My children and I are very excited to have a puppy named in Bob’s memory,” said Lisa Dolan. “Bob began his military career as an explosives ordnance expert. When he was killed at the Pentagon, he was working on Homeland Defense, and so it very fitting to have one of the TSA puppies named for our hero, Captain Bob Dolan. Knowing ‘Puppy Dolan’ will one day be an explosives detection canine in the service of our country is reassuring. Dolan’s future career keeping travelers safe is a fitting addition to Bob’s legacy of freedom.”
Lisa Dolan and her daughter got to reunite with the dog again at his recent graduation.
Operating out of Lackland Air Force Base since 2002, TSA’s canine program selectively breeds and prepares puppies to be trained and deployed to airports and mass transit systems throughout the country.
About half of the 500 puppies bred by TSA are working as detection dogs for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies or have been selected as breeders for the program.
The TSA relies on volunteers to help raise the puppies. After screening and an orientation, families in central Texas provide a nurturing home environment from 10 weeks to 12 months of age. TSA provides all the food, equipment and veterinary care, and the families provide environments in which the puppies can grow and develop.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 20th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 000, 3, 9-11, airports, animals, bob dolan, bomb, bomb-sniffing, captain, detection, dogs, explosives, foster, homeland, labrador retriever, lackland air force base, law enforcement, mass transit, navy, pentagon, pets, puppies, robert edward dolan jr, security, training, transportation security administration, tsa, victim, volunteer
The reunion took place at Lackland Air Force base in Texas last week, and the eight-year-old dog is now home with Logan Black.
Black, 34, launched a campaign on Facebook to persuade the Air Force to retire Diego and let him adopt him, KCTV in Kansas City reports. The retired soldier says Diego saved his life, several times, in Iraq.
“This feels fantastic,” Black said. “I’ve been waiting for those for a really long time.”
Black trained Diego and they served on nearly 40 missions in Iraq in 2006, searching for hidden weapons and homemade bombs.
Five years after they sent separate ways, Black said he still missed the dog. He began a search for Diego and learned that he was working at Lackland AFB, helping train other bomb-sniffing dogs.
“No doubt Diego would have found a home somewhere, but a home with me is different than with a totally new stranger,” Black said.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, animals, bomb, bond, campaign, detecting, diego, dog, dogs, facebook, handler, home, humans, iraq, lackland, logan black, military, pets, reunion, reunited, search, sniffing, veteran
The dogs are members of “EcoDogs,” a three-year-old collaboration at Alabama’s Auburn University between the science departments and the school’s Canine Detection Research Institute, which trains dogs to detect explosives.
Environmentalists fear the non-native pythons are upsetting the ecological balance of South Florida. Their spread is generally attributed to irresponsible pet owners dumping their snakes and 1992′s Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed an adjacent exotic snake warehouse.
Now they’ve adapted to the Everglades, and park officials say there’s no way of eradicating them. Instead, with help from dogs, they hope to keep them from further spreading.
In a trial run, the dogs showed they can cover a search area 2.5 times faster than a person.
“People can only see that the snake is there if they can see the snake. The dogs can smell the snake even if it’s not visually apparent to us,” said Christina Romagosa, a biologist at Auburn.
Two black Labrador retrievers from EcoDogs, Ivy and Jake, were sent to the 2,358-square-mile park in 2010 and demonstrated their skills to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a Reuters report that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Todd Steury, an Auburn conservation biologist and co-founder of the project, said training a new dog to detect a scent takes six to 10 weeks. Training for each additional scent, he said, takes “about 10 minutes. You can do it by accident if you’re not careful.”
In controlled experiments, the EcoDogs success rate in finding pythons at the park was 75-92 percent, Romagosa said. The dogs helped researchers trap 19 pythons, including a pregnant snake with 19 eggs, according to an EcoDog report.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, auburn university, biology, bomb, burmese pythons, canine detection, conservation, detecting, detection, dogs, ecodogs, ecology, environment, everglades, everglades national park, florida, pets, pythons, research institute, scent, snakes, sniffing, training
Leavey served as the dog’s handler for more than three years until a roadside bomb blast in Ramadi, Iraq, took them out of commission in 2006, MSNBC reports.
“Rex is my partner; I love him,” said Leavey, 28, who lives with her father in Rockport, New York, and works as a dog handler. “We have been through so much together … I’ve spent day and night with this dog. It’s a very strong bond.”
Leavey first applied to adopt Sgt. Rex as she was completing her Marine Corps service in 2007, but the military determined the dog had recovered and should return to duty.
About a month ago, though, Leavey heard that Sgt. Rex had been deemed ready to retire after developing facial palsy, which was affecting his equilibrium. She again filed paperwork to adopt him.
“An official request for retirement has been submitted,” said Matthew Stines, press officer for the Air Force, which has jurisdiction over the Military Working Dog Program. He said that action on that request is expected to take about two weeks.
The dog still has to be evaluated for “adoptability” at Camp Pendleton, where he is now kenneled. Approval also has to come from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Military dogs aren’t commonly euthanized upon retirement — at least not anymore — except in cases where they have health or behavioral issues or are otherwise deemed unadoptable.
Leavey is hoping Sgt. Rex passes those tests, and that there’s an end to the red tape.
“(Rex) is just hanging out in his kennel,” Leavey said. “I know the Marine Corp has other more important issues. But it’s important to me. And he deserves it.”
Sgt. Rex is the subject of a 2011 book written by his first handler, Mike Dowling — “Sgt. Rex: The Unbreakable Bond between a Marine and his Military Working Dog.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is encouraging the the Air Force to act quickly to approve the adoption.
“Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex are true American heroes who saved countless American lives uncovering roadside bombs and booby traps in Iraq,” he said in a statement. “I’m strongly urging the Air Force to do the right thing, cross the T’s and dot the I’s so that Rex gets the home he deserves, and Corporal Leavey can be reunited with her faithful companion.”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, air force, animals, bomb, bomb-sniffing, bond, bureaucracy, camp pendleton, charles schumer, deployment, dog, dogs, evaluation, german shepherd, handler, iraq, K-9, k9, lackland, marines, megan leavey, military, military dog, pets, red tape, retired, rex, senator, sergeant rex, service, sgt. rex, working dog
Target, the dog brought to the U.S. from Aghanistan by one of the soldiers whose lives she was credited with saving — only to be accidentally euthanized by an animal shelter – was remembered in a memorial service last night.
The candlelight vigil was held at the Pima County Animal Shelter in Tucson.
In Afghanistan, Target, a stray befriended by a group of American soldiers, kept a suicide bomber who was trying to enter a building on a military base from gaining access. Instead, the bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.
Phoenix soldier Terry Young brought Target back home to Arizona. Last month, the dog escaped from Young’s yard and ended up in at the Pinal County animal shelter in Casa Grande, where she was accidentally euthanized the next day. The employee responsible for the mistake has been suspended.
Young said his son, Tavius, and the rest of the family is still working to get over the dog’s death, according to KGUN9.
“It’s been a few weeks already and Tavius still says, ‘Where’s Target?’ It’s heartbreaking.”
Posted by jwoestendiek December 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accidentally euthanized, afhganistan, animal shelter, animals, bomb, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, hero, hero dog, memorial, military, pets, pima county animal shelter, pinal county, shelters, soldiers, stray, suicide bomber, target, terry young, tucson, vigil
The Virginian-Pilot this week sniffed out a doozy of a story — about how 49 dogs supposedly trained in bomb detection for the Navy by a private security contractor failed to pass muster and were returned to the contractor, only to apparently languish in the months that followed.
The Navy originally picked up the dogs last spring from Securitas Security Services USA, a private security contractor in Chicago. But once the dogs arrived at Naval bases, not a one was able to find planted explosives during military certification tests, according to the Navy.
The Navy sent the dogs back to the contractor, then later decided to end the contract with Securitas, buying the 49 dogs and training them on its own.
When the Navy went to retrieve to dogs on Oct. 5, according to Navy emails obtained by the newspaper, the dogs were dirty, weak and so thin that their ribs and hip bones jutted out.
In the emails, a civilian official describes the dogs’ condition as “deplorable” and says he feared the dogs would have died if the military hadn’t come to get them.
In fact, the Navy said later, at least two of the dogs didn’t survive, and several others were deemed too sick to be of use, the newspaper reported. Nearly a year after they were supposed to have begun working, the remaining K-9s still are not patrolling Navy installations as intended.
It was the first time the Navy had procured dogs trained by an outside contractor. In the past, it trained its own dogs to help protect its bases and ships.
Securitas disputes that the dogs were poorly trained and neglected, and says that the Navy still owes it money — more than $6 million for its services and for the animals. Jim McNulty, an executive vice president, said the dogs were healthy and well-fed when the Navy picked them up a second time. He disputed that they were kept in a warehouse. “They were in excellent shape,” he said.
Securitas bought the dogs for about $465,000 from Vohne Liche Kennels, an Indiana-based business that offers work-ready police dogs as well as training courses for handlers.
When the Navy canceled the contract, it paid $800,000 to Securitas for the dogs, according to Securitas.
The state of Illinois has launched an investigation into the dogs’ treatment.
The Navy’s shift to privately trained explosives-detection dogs came as part of a decision in 2008 to outsource a number of base security services. In January 2009, Lockheed announced it had signed a $350 million, five-year contract with the military, part of which called for Lockheed to provide explosives-detection dogs to supplement the Navy’s own K-9 forces and free up more Navy dogs to deploy overseas.
Soon after it signed the agreement, Lockheed subcontracted the K-9 portion to Securitas. Securitas began offering K-9 services about seven years ago.
In a written statement, the Navy said it expects 39 of the original 49 dogs to eventually patrol installations as intended. Several are now being cared for and trained at bases in the Hampton Roads area.
(US NAVY photo)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 11th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bases, bomb, chicago, contractors, defense, detection, dogs, explosives, illinois, K-9, k9, lockheed, military, naval, navy, neglect, news, outsourcing, ribs, securitas, security, showing, sniffing, training, underfed
Gunner, though he hasn’t seen much of it, is — from all appearances — tired of war.
Out of the 58 bomb-sniffing dogs the Marines have in Afghanistan, only one—a yellow Lab named Gunner— is suffering from such severe canine post-traumatic stress disorder that he’s having to sit things out, remaining behind at his base camp to quiver in his kennel, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Marines call him “combat-ineffective” and “not mission-capable.” He’s refusing to go into battle and perform the war-time deeds he was trained to do, which makes him a liability, in the eyes of the Marines.
Like their human comrades, some war dogs can handle combat, and some can’t, according to the Journal piece (which includes a slideshow of Gunner in action, or, more accurately, in inaction).
Gunner graduated from bomb-dog school in Virginia, but the Marines say he was skittish even before he arrived in the combat zone in October and was posted to a front-line battalion. He reacted so nervously to gunfire that he never even got a chance to go on a real patrol.
He’s not the first dog to decline to perform his duties. Another Lab refused to associate with the Marines after seeing a serviceman shoot a feral Afghan dog. It took weeks of retraining, hours of playing with a reindeer squeaky toy and a piles of praise before Zoom was willing to go back to work.
Capt. Michael Bellin, an Army veterinarian working with the Marines, says he’s seen canine post-traumatic stress disorder cases before. “I think it’s possible, depending on what they went through.”
Gunner was sent to the main kennel at Camp Leatherneck, where bomb dogs recuperate from illness or injury. For weeks after he arrived, Gunner refused to leave the kennel compound. Even now almost any sound sends him into a panic. If a shipping container door slams somewhere nearby, Gunner hunches down and bolts for an open cage door. If an artillery round goes off in the distance, he races into the tent of kennel manager, Cpl. Chad McCoy.
The corporal doubts Gunner will ever be fit for combat; instead he’s trying to get him to get over his fears enough to make him adoptable back home.
(Photo: Wall Streee Journal, Bryan Denton)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 6th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghanistan, animals, bomb, camp leatherneck, canine, combat ineffective, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, gunner, K-9, k9, labrador, marines, news, pets, post traumatic stress, stress, war, yellow lab
All three bomb-sniffing dogs handled by the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport have lost their certification after having failed their last two tests.
And Fox News reports the problems may extend beyond that: Sources say about a dozen of the 700 TSA dogs at 85 airports have failed the tests as well.
A TSA spokesman said the three dogs in Philadelphia — after failing standard tests in November and December — are continuing intensive training to regain their certification, and are continuing to work at the airport as a “visual deterrent.”
The dogs, trained in at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, completed the 10-week course all TSA dogs must successfully pass.
Ten other city police dogs assigned to Philadelphia’s airport passed the tests.
The TSA spokesman said the agency is working quickly to recertify the bomb sniffing dogs and assured the traveling public that security would not suffer.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 6th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: airport, bomb, certification, detecting, dogs, explosive, fail, international, K-9, k9, lackland, philadelphia, police, recertification, security, sniffing, tests, training, transporation security administration, tsa