K9s hard at work dur­ing dog days of sum­mer

YVR ca­nine per­son­nel on pawtrol

The Province - - NEWS - GOR­DON MCIN­TYRE gordm­cin­tyre@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/gordm­cin­tyre

Think you’ve got it ruff? Diesel searches for bombs and Nova for guns and opi­oids. Pi­lot keeps geese from be­ing sucked into the jet en­gines of air­planes. Whiskey pro­tects B.C.’s or­chards and crops from dis­ease. Branston calms whiteknuckle fly­ers.

Diesel is a black Ger­man shep­herd from the Nether­lands, and Nova a black Labrador re­triever. Pi­lot is a mudi (a Hun­gar­ian herd­ing dog). Whiskey is an agri-bea­gle mix. Branston a Ber­nese moun­tain dog.

They are a few of the ca­nines pa­trolling Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, keep­ing pas­sen­gers safe, se­cure and re­as­sured. The dogs, and their han­dlers, are also hav­ing a ball.

“As han­dlers, we have to come to work and make it fun for the dog,” said Danielle Get­zie, Nova’s han­dler and, like her eight-year-old Lab, a star on Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel’s Bor­der Se­cu­rity: Canada’s Front Line.

Nova was trained to search for weapons and drugs. If you are car­ry­ing $20,000 in un­de­clared $100 bills, Nova won’t bother with you (an­other of the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency de­tec­tor dogs will, though). Nova, like all de­tec­tor dogs, has been trained to fo­cus on a nar­row range of spe­cific smells.

“I could train her to be a pen dog,” Get­zie said, point­ing to a re­porter’s tool-of-the-trade. “She would learn to de­tect that el­e­ment and then she would get to play, she’d get a re­ward.

“I come to work for my pay­cheque. Nova comes to work for her ten­nis balls.”

YVR in­tro­duced a pro­gram last year called the Less Air­port Stress Ini­tia­tive. Yes, LASI.

St. John’s Am­bu­lance per­son­nel wan­der through the air­port and gates let­ting ner­vous fly­ers pet and play with pup­pies from their ther­apy dog pro­gram.

“We’ve lit­er­ally had peo­ple at the gate stressed out so badly they aren’t sure they’re go­ing to get on their flight. Af­ter 10 or 15 min­utes with one of the dogs, they’re re­lieved, they’ve calmed down,” said Reg Krake, YVR’s di­rec­tor of cus­tomer care.

The num­ber of dogs at the air­port, which at this time of year is han­dling 90,000 pas­sen­gers a day, varies, but it’s in the dozens, Krake said.

The dogs are em­ployed by CBSA, pri­vate avi­a­tion se­cu­rity firm Se­curi­guard, Tran­sit Po­lice, the RCMP and St. John’s Am­bu­lance.

“We check any­thing left be­hind, ev­ery­thing at Lost and Found. We walk through the air­port, we walk up to pas­sen­gers,” said Courtney Lee, Diesel the bomb-sniff­ing Ger­man shep­herd’s han­dler. “We in­ves­ti­gate ve­hi­cles parked by the curb. Pretty much any­thing we can check, we check.”

Diesel has not had the fun of be­ing re­warded for find­ing a real bomb (“Thank­fully, and hope­fully he never does,” Lee said), so he un­der­goes train­ing at least weekly. “For him, it started by play­ing with a ball with a train­ing aid in­side it. Then you be­gin to hide it and he has to search with his nose. It evolves from there.

“For Diesel, it’s all about play. He has no idea he has a job to do.”

NICK PROCAYLO/POST­MEDIA

Am­bas­sador dogs Nor­man and Mis­ter Bentley greet vis­i­tors at YVR’s Dog Days of Sum­mer event on Sun­day.

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