We love airports, don’t you? After a year without travel, we can’t wait to see the bustle, feel that unique buzz of people excited to be off on a new adventure in a new place…
Of all the sights and sounds of a busy airport, the one that’s guaranteed to make you smile is the earnest, adorable faces of hard-at-work security dogs.
We may not be going to the airport and heading off to new destinations right now, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking a small detour from its serious mission of airport safety, and has found a way to share some of the endearing sensations of the airport with travel lovers at home.
For the first time, the TSA is making its annual TSA Canine Calendar available to the public as a digital download.
The calendar features 13, real TSA explosive detection canines from airports around the USA, one for each month, and one for a look ahead to 2022. In addition to a heart-melting image of a TSA Canine, there are some fun facts about the dog and the program.
Rea, pictured above from the calendar, for example, is October’s TSA Canine. She is a German Shepherd who works at San Francisco International Airport. Her favorite treat, we learn, is rawhides, and she enjoys hiking and any toy ‘stuffed with a squeaker’.
TSA Canine teams across the country submit photos to celebrate National Dog Day in August, and this year’s 2021 calendar pups were chosen from dozens of entries.
It’s a fun face on the agency’s somber business of safety, and gives us a glimpse inside one aspect of travel we might not otherwise think about.
The TSA has more than 1,000 specially-trained dogs, teamed with human handlers, deployed around the country, with their super-hero sniffing abilities contributing to security and screening.
TSA Canines are chosen from seven breeds of large dogs, from German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Short-haired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas, or Belgian Malinois. 300 canine candidates complete their 12-16 weeks of intensive training every year in the TSA’s Canine Training Center in San Antonio, Texas.
There, the dogs learn to adapt to busy airport environments and work with their human handlers to detect specific scents. They practice working in different areas of airports including a mock terminal, an airport gate, a checkpoint, the interior of an aircraft, light rail station and cars, cargo facilities, parking and open air spaces, as well as baggage claim, where most of us as passengers see their focused, energetic work.
TSA Canines at the training center also learn to work in different transportation environments in addition to airports, including bus, ferry, rail, maritime ports and mass transit.
Wherever you cross paths with a TSA Canine, their friendly doggy faces are a welcome sight. The dogs are trained to be sociable in their public duties, but they are working to keep you safe and the TSA reminds us not to try to pet or feed any of the dogs on duty.
We’ll just have to gaze at their irresistible puppy dog eyes in the TSA Canine Calendar to admire them… and dream of our return to travel.