Meet Legend, a three-year-old Golden-Lab who loves belly rubs, food, and sleeping on his human parents’ bed. On a Saturday walk in New York City with his human mom, Legend greets everyone he sees. People passing by remark on how friendly Legend is... they have no idea that this outgoing lab has a very important job.
Legend is a bomb sniffing dog in New York City. Legend and his handler James work for MSA Security, training canines and human handlers to work together to detect explosive devices. The training programs focus on creating a deep bond between handler and dog. Each dog is placed with one handler for the entirety of their career. The dog lives with their handler and becomes part of the handler’s family. A handler is able to communicate with their dog through actions, body language and commands. Locating bombs is a dangerous career and requires complete trust between handler and dog.
James transitioned careers to dog handling two years ago. He started with a month-long program to begin his training and be matched with a canine. During the training, newbie handlers took turns working with every dog at the facility. Near the end of the month, each handler was paired with the dog they worked best with. Nobody was surprised that James and Legend were placed together. Legend stood out as one of the most friendly and energetic dogs in the program. And the warmhearted golden lab had a soft spot for James. According to James, he knew Legend would be his future coworker after the pup came right up to him and laid in his lap.
Now, James and Legend have been partners for the last two years and have an unfaltering connection. The duo works, lives, and sleeps together. For work, they go to different places throughout New York City searching for explosive devices. Each week, James and Legend travel to a varied set of locations including the 9/11 Memorial, City Field, and the Staten Island Ferry. Legend sniffs out the perimeters of buildings for explosive devices. He also carefully checks vehicles and luggage. For doing a good job, James rewards Legend with a handful of his favorite kibble. Food is Legend’s absolute favorite thing, so he has no complaints about his wages.
On their days off, the pair train together to keep their skills sharp. To train Legend, James hides items throughout the house that contain chemicals used in making bombs for Legend to find. And of course, after finding the items, Legend gets… you guessed it - food!
MSA Security dogs normally retire around seven or eight. After retirement, they can become full-time couch hounds. In lieu of finding explosive devices, retired bomb sniffing dogs spend their days sneaking naps on their owners’ beds. Legend will continue living with James and his family after he retires - but that is still a long way off for this working dog.
When he is not in working or training mode, Legend is almost a different dog entirely! He is a big goofball and loves snuggling with his family. From watching Legend, it becomes clear that Legend is not just a protector of New York City - he is also a very good boy.
Emily Negus is a freelance writer, and avid trail runner. She currently resides in Northern California with her two troublesome German Shepherds, Pippin and Chancey