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K9 unit visits Needham seniors

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

On January 15, members from the TSA K9 program came to the Needham Center at the Heights to show seniors the work they do every day while patrolling Logan Airport.

It was the first time most members of the audience had met working dogs. Officer Randy Cabral took the time to explain the differences between the different working dogs at the airport. Cabral and Ficko, his German short-haired pointer partner, work at detecting explosives for airport security. He noted that they would be doing a demonstration at the end to show off some of their search skills. “Well, I better get mine out of here!” joked one senior, cracking up the room.

“To the dogs, it’s like a big game of hide and seek,” explained Cabral, before showing the audience a demonstrative video. For a person to screen 100 boxes, it would take hours. But for a dog, it takes 30 seconds to a minute, using their ability to sniff. When a dog smells explosives in a box, they’ll suddenly stop and sit. Ironically, the dogs can sometimes get tripped up by certain medications, prompting Officer Cabral to ask if anyone in the audience had some in their person.

For their demonstration, Officer Cabral and Ficko, along with Officer Brandon Denneen and his partner, Benny, lined up a few suitcases, one containing a decoy for the dogs to find. Benny and Ficko were eager to start, pulling at their leashes to signal that they were ready to do their job. Within seconds, each dog had found the bag. They were promptly rewarded with their favorite toys.

Members of the audience were amazed at the sight, and how security had changed during their lifetimes. “It’s just amazing. Our parents never saw any of this,” said one senior, watching as Benny made his way through the demonstration.

Other seniors remarked on how the addition of dogs like Ficko and Benny made them feel safer while they’re traveling. “Look at what they can do! Can you imagine if every airport had these dogs? No one would ever be able to sneak anything through,” noted one senior.

These seniors may spot Benny or Ficko the next time they travel through Logan. Even if they don’t, though, they’ll rest easy, knowing that the airport has some of the best security guards working to make sure they’re safe.

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