New squad of canine officers graduate from explosive detection course

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NEW YORK – They’re the newest officers on the MTA’s police force reporting for duty, and they’re pretty cute too.

Thirteen canines along with their handlers graduated from the MTA Police Department’s Explosive Detection Training course Wednesday. It's an intense 12-week program where each pup was put to the test.

As part of training, canines sniffed out cars, buses, platforms and decommissioned trains in elaborate obstacle courses at the MTA PD’s 72-acre training center in Dutchess County, New York.

“They have to have a desire to work like you can’t just have a dog roaming around and not have the energy to work,” MTA Police Officer Alison Schmitt said, describing what sets the skilled canines apart from the rest. “As soon as I say ‘you wanna go to work?’ he pops up and he’s so excited, and does his job well.”

It’s a job high-in-demand in the age of “if you see something, say something.”

These canines, considered some of the most skilled officers in the department, will be on the front lines in transit hubs covering 14 counties in New York and Connecticut.

“The more training you get – the sharper your skills are and we’re just ready to go out there and do our job, especially this guy,” MTA Police Officer Christopher Matias said about his pup-partner. “He’s excited to go work.”

Another thing these canines have in common - they were all named after fallen police officers, firefighters and soldiers lost in the line of duty.

U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert was killed when insurgents attacked his unit while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

Eight years later, his legacy lives on in Canine Joey, something that resonates with his mother Chrystyna Kestler.

“When Joey was killed the one thing we requested was that everyone remember his story so the re-telling of his story is special,” Kestler said. “He’s gonna still be here with us.”

As those legacies live on, so will the goals of those who came before them: keeping New Yorkers safe with a watchful eye – and sniff. ​