The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) protects America from firearm trafficking, illegal explosives, bombings, terrorists and illegal use of alcohol and tobacco products.
But when Special Agent Deja arrives on the scene she’s not what you might expect.
Deja is a four-year-old Yellow Lab. She is one of about 30 ATF explosives detection K-9s. Her and her partner Special Agent Mitchell Wido have been working together for three years searching for threats that are hidden from human detection.
“She has to find a wide variety of explosive compounds, everything from gunpowder, to TNT, sparklers, fireworks you name it,” said Wido. “If it is an explosive chemical mixture she is trained to find it. She is trained to find over 18,000 different types of chemical mixtures that are found in explosives.”
All ATF K-9s are labs. They feel that since they go to so many public events that labs are the best breed that gets along with people. Deja is very friendly and on her days off is a family dog and lives with Wido.
Before she went to the ATF she was she was in Guiding Eyes for the Blind, training to be a Seeing Eye dog. But Deja was too curious for the program, that factor is perfect for searching for explosives.
The team trained together for ten weeks. At the end of the training she has to take a test and must be 100% accurate.
To test Deja we took her out to the Route 59 train station. I hid a package of TNT in a drainpipe; neither she nor Wido knew where it was hidden.
Within minutes she alerted Wido and found it with no problems.
“Her alert is just to sit down,” said Wido. “We don’t want the dogs pawing at it or sticking their nose in certain containers or bags.”
Deja and Special Agent Wido travel all over the country. They are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They also work at all major sporting events including NFL games, soccer, baseball and hockey. Deja has many success stories but the one Wido is most proud of was a call to some storage units. The ATF received information that there were dangerous items inside one of their storage units.
“We weren’t sure which storage facility it was. We had a block of about 50 or 60 of them,” said Wido. “Deja worked the bottoms of the doors on all the storage lockers. There was one particular storage locker she showed a keen interest in and ultimately that locker was opened and there were several hundred rounds of ammunition that were stored in that locker.”
Deja and Wido will be on patrol at the G8 and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summits hosted by President Barack Obama. The NATO G8 will be in Chicago May 19th-21st.
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