Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus and Mary Jane both received a well-deserved second chance. Now they are saving lives and are true canine heroes.
Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus (pictured here), a yellow Labrador, had been in and out of three different adoption homes because his energy level was so high. The Howard County shelter was about to euthanize Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus when Joann Chambers, 71, a Lab Rescue volunteer, spotted his potential and gave him another chance.
Mary Jane, a black Labrador, was also a misfit. Mary Jane’s parents “came from long lines of guide-dog producers. Our creme de la creme.” All three of Mary Jane’s siblings passed the guide dog entrance exam. But Mary Jane failed because she whined throughout the test. She fell to the floor when she saw an opened umbrella. The evaluators said Mary Jane lacked self-confidence.
Mary Jane was then adopted by John Pucci, an inmate in prison for a drug-related shooting, through a program called Puppies Behind Bars. Pucci trained her and raised the Labrador in his New York prison cell.
But Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus and Mary Jane were destined for bigger and better things. They may have been considered as underachievers or not confident enough or not well behaved enough, but now through second chances, they are sniffing out terrorists in Morocco.
These two Labradors, along with four other Labradors, were put in a 16-week program in Virginia run by the Justice and State departments to train them to be potential lifesavers. Each dog teamed up for training with a Moroccan law enforcement official. After their graduation, these Labradors joined more than 700 American canines who work with foreign counterterrorism forces.
The Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course, established in 1991 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with the State Department’s Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance, has increased since Sept. 11, 2001. This program is the world’s largest bomb-dog program which supplies dogs for both domestic and overseas law enforcement. The center has trained dogs and foreign handlers for more than 20 countries, including Australia, Italy, Israel, Thailand and Qatar.
In Mexico, an ATF-trained dog sniffed out a shipment of guns. In Iraq, a dog found a 500-pound bomb. In Egypt, a dog alerted a SWAT team that a door was booby-trapped.
For a country to qualify, it must provide veterinary care, exercise fields and clean facilities for the dogs.
ATF uses food as rewards. The dogs receive food when they sit to alert the presence of explosives. They can detect more than 19,000 kinds of explosives from up to a third of a mile away. One trainer’s dog would work all night for baby carrots.
After their graduation, Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus and Mary Jane said goodbye to the people that gave them a second chance and saw behind their fiestiness or lack of self-confidence. They are no longer considered misfits, and instead they walk out as heroes.
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