I met this man who trains dogs to sniff out explosives. He calls them “bomb dogs.” He does this for the police department in Washington, D.C.  As we know, a lot of people are interested in planting explosives in Washington, D.C.  Sometimes it makes you wonder why we live here.

Dog on duty in Iraq
Dog on duty in Iraq
The man told me they get the dogs from Germany, and a fully trained dog is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. One reason is because it takes the trainer a year working full time to get a dog ready. A dog can smell almost everything that has a scent, so it must be hard to get him focused on the few things he’s being trained to sniff out.

The trainer I talked with said the thing that makes a bomb dog’s day is to do his job well and have the trainer tell him he’s been a good dog.

But it has to be the trainer telling him that. Anyone else tells him “good dog” and he says “well who the hell are you?” He has one master, and what this master says about his work is the only thing that matters to him.

It must be hard working every day as a bomb dog. You have to work alone and make your own decisions. There’s no such thing as calling a fellow bomb dog over and asking him to take a whiff. Ask what does this smell like to him? Have a conference on it like the umpires do when they throw down their yellow flags. They huddle together and decide why they did that. But a bomb dog has to make his decision alone, and in a hurry.

And speaking of in a hurry, it would be easy to get heavy-nosed while in a hurry. But a bomb dog can’t get heavy-nosed or he won’t be staying on the bomb squad long. His trainer wouldn’t appreciate it either. Instead of “good dog” he’d be hearing something else. Or most likely hearing nothing.

When you’re in an explosive situation, the first thing you have to do is stay light-nosed.

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