Sure, his lean
100-pound physique would make any owner proud, as would his handsome
black lab features and his gentleman-like behavior. But there's
just something more about Jake that makes people love him and
other dogs want to be like him---Jake is an expert bomb-sniffing
He is the first bomb dog for the Annapolis City Fire Department
and is certainly a welcome addition. "He was added to the team
in 1997 after we saw an increase of explosive-related calls in
the city," explains Lt. Douglas Remaley of the fire department.
Currently, Jake and Investigator Jeffrey Morgan make up the Annapolis
Fire Department's Explosive Detection Canine Team. Remaley is
their immediate supervisor.
"Prior to Jake, we would get calls for bomb threats and oftentimes
have to wait extended periods of time for an available canine
to arrive from another agency," says Remaley. He recalls a bomb
threat when they had to wait more than two hours in order to obtain
a canine. "Meanwhile, the site could not be searched and several
businesses had to remain closed while we waited. A bomb dog is
an important tool for us. For such a minimal cost, he helps us
to be more effective."
Jake and Morgan stay very busy. "We work 24-7," says Morgan. Jake
responds to every explosive call with Morgan and has been trained
as a "play reward" dog as opposed to a "food reward" dog. Morgan
explains, "Jake has two toys---one is for play and the other is
for work. When I pull his work toy out of my pocket, he knows
its time to do his job." When they arrive at the scene, if a search
is rendered, Jake is led to the area on a leash and begins his
quest. "If he smells something, he is trained to sit," says Morgan.
"This is called a hit. Once he hits on something, he's rewarded
with his toy then taken back to the truck and the bomb squad takes
And for all of you pet enthusiasts who worry about Jake sitting
inside of a closed truck while the bomb squad risks their lives
doing what they do---worry not. Morgan and Jake's Chevy Suburban
is rigged with climate control (compliments of Jeff's Auto Body)
that adjusts the temperature automatically by rolling down the
windows or turning on the air-conditioning or heat---whatever
it takes to keep Jake in top shape for his next assignment.
Interestingly, our community really pulled together to launch
Jake's career in an effort to assist the bomb squad in keeping
our city safe. After his adoption from the Cecil County SPCA,
Jake began his extensive training with JHF K-9 Services. "The
Annapolis Lions Club was generous in helping fund Jake's initial
training," says Remaley. "Then several local businesses covered
expenses for two full years before Jake was added to the city
budget plan." It has been well worth the venture as he certainly
earns his keep.
The tragic events of September 11 have added to Morgan and Jake's
already busy schedule. In the three months that followed the terrorist
attacks, Jake responded to more than 80 calls. "We have seen an
increase in calls since September 11," says Remaley. "People are
much more aware and active in reporting things like suspicious
This capability makes Jake a valuable asset to other agencies,
as well. "Jake also does work for the police department and is
used for gun searches and evidence recovery in homicides involving
firearms," says McDowell. Jake has been successful in finding
such crucial evidence as shell casings, thus helping to solve
Also on Jake's resume is working every Naval Academy football
game, as well as protecting our president and commander-in-chief.
That's right! "Jake has been called out as a back-up when the
president comes to town," Remaley says. " During Commissioning
Week, Jake worked alongside the Secret Service and their canines."
Though some of Jake's work is confidential, Remaley shares that
they do a lot of work with the Naval Academy, especially since
September 11. Sometimes Jake is needed to search an area before
a dignitary arrives or after a threat is received. "If we are
going to search an area, it is an extremely systematic search.
First, we 'sweep' the area, then we secure it to make sure that
nothing is placed afterwards---and we continue on."
As one would expect, Jake's physical health is of great importance.
"Jake has to stay in top shape and able to work seven days a week,"
says Morgan. "He exercises every day and is on a high performance
In order for Jake to maintain his sharp olfactory skills, Morgan
leads him in daily drills. "Basically, every day I plant a hit
(explosive material)," explains Morgan. "Jake finds it and is
rewarded---this keeps him motivated." Jake also attends a monthly
training provided and documented by the state.
When asked how long Jake can effectively perform his job without
a break, McDowell responds, "It depends on environmental factors---how
hot or cold it is. It can take hours to search a building or designated
area and a dog must rest periodically in order to remain effective."
McDowell continues, "That is why we are actively pursuing another
dog. We need multiple dogs so that we can shift them and their
handlers." A bomb dog and his handler are always together. One
does not go anywhere without the other. If one is sick, they are
both out of commission. When asked about vacation, Morgan smiles
and says, "What's that?"
There is an on-going joke about Jake's paycheck within the department.
Of course, he does not receive one, but apparently he's always
trying. "One time we put in an overtime slip for Jake with a paw
print on it," Remaley says with a smile. For the record, it was
So, how long will Jake work before he retires? The average career
of a bomb dog is eight to 10 years, but it depends on the dog.
"We are very hopeful that Jake's career will be longer. He gets
very excited when he's working---and he's very motivated," says
Yes, it's true that every dog has its day and, when asked about
Jake's most embarrassing moment, the response was unanimous. Remaley
and Morgan laugh as McDowell confesses, "When I was Jake's handler,
we were responding to a call---with the greatest confidence, of
course. When we arrived at the scene, I proceeded to walk through
the doorway, but Jake walked right into the glass window just
next to the door---that was embarrassing!"
When Jake was asked about the incident, he declined to comment.