A Canine Retirement

Anne Arundel Bomb-sniffer Quits At Age 9

May 31, 2009|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

He's been a fixture around the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court House for 4 1/2 years, roaming its corridors, courtrooms, offices and parking garage, searching for explosives - though some would say he's really been looking for snacks.

But this past week was the last one on the job for Levi, a black Labrador retriever and one of two bomb-sniffing dogs in the county Sheriff's Office. Levi, starting to gray around the muzzle, retired at the age of 9.

"He's getting too old, a lot of aches and pains," said Deputy Sheriff Harry L. Neisser, a department spokesman.

For years, Levi walked around the courthouse with a deputy in the early morning, later stood attentively as people entered the building through security and sniffed attache cases on hallway benches. The dog could be spotted chasing a tennis ball and snagging treats from courthouse workers.

Along with Rocky, the other canine deputy, Levi was sent to reports of bomb threats in the area. He searched for explosives during Maryland visits by President George W. Bush and, more recently, President Barack Obama's whistle-stop tour in advance of his inauguration.

The dogs never found explosives, though a metal detector at the entrance has snared many weapons. But their presence has startled warring litigants in the courthouse into self-control.

Retirement for a dog trained in explosives detection at the National Institutes of Health is a more ordinary life. Levi will become the pet of his handler, Deputy Jason Jett.

Jett will get a new work partner in coming weeks, Neisser said. That dog is expected to get additional security training. The agency's dogs typically get sworn in with a pawprint and fanfare.

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