Powder hounds prove up to sniff
A pair of pooches trained in detecting explosives proved themselves up to sniff last week in a series of training exercises around Aspen.They are the newest members of Aspen-based Foremost Response’s security force and are, quite possibly, the only explosives-detection dogs on the Western Slope, according to Foremost owner J.J. Sutton.”According to our homework, there isn’t even a law-enforcement agency on the Western Slope that has an explosives-detection dog,” he said.In fact, Sutton anticipates law enforcement agencies will be among his clients, along with airports, governments and Foremost’s corporate and private clients.One of the dogs, a 1 1/2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Joe Friday, will be based in the Roaring Fork Valley with his handler, Foremost’s Jimmy Olsen of Carbondale. Ben, a 2 1/2-year-old golden Lab, will be stationed in Grand Junction with handler Tim Brown. Both dogs were in Aspen for a week of training with their handlers before they head to Grand Valley this week for more work in different environments.The dogs are trained in detecting roughly a dozen common explosives, from gunpowder to more sophisticated substances, but their performance has been eye-opening since they arrived last week, Sutton said.”We had a preconceived notion of what we’d be getting, but the last couple of days have been absolutely amazing,” he said.On Friday, the dogs were put through their paces at the St. Regis Aspen. Items like an unspent shotgun shell and small quantities of inert explosives were concealed in one of the hotel’s conference rooms. The dogs, brought into the room on a leash, were set free, with the command: “Show me.” Darting quickly around the room, Joe Friday sat down almost immediately next to a potted plant in the corner and waited patiently for Olsen. The shotgun shell was concealed in the planter.Olsen produced a red, rubber toy and tossed it in the air. Brief play is Joe’s reward.”This dog will find stuff where no one will find it,” Olsen said.In addition to bomb-style explosives, the dogs can find ammunition and weapons. They can be used to help police search a crime scene, for example.Law-enforcement officials aren’t the only ones who may need the dogs’ services, though.Foremost already has one client who flies in an explosives-detection dog from out of state to search the private jet before the family takes off out of Aspen, according to Sutton. Now, Foremost can provide that service.”There’s no man-made machine that comes close to the scent capability of a dog,” said trainer Mark Rispoli. His firm, Makor K9 of Napa, Calif., trained the dogs. He accompanied the dogs to their new home and is teaching the handlers to work with them.For the dogs, he said, it’s a game of hide-and-seek, find and play. They seek out the explosives and when they find them, they get to play.A trained dog spends 10 to 12 weeks at Rispoli’s academy and then up to another month training with its handler.The average purchase price for a trained dog is $10,000-plus.”These are on the ‘plus’ side. Way on the plus side,” Olsen said.Hiring one of Foremost’s dogs, with his handler, will run $250 an hour with a two-hour minimum, according to Sutton, who’s also planning half- and full-day rates, plus special rates for clients such as schools.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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