There's Something About Jake

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 dog.

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 over."

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 packages."

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 crimes.

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 dog food."

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 denied.

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 McDowell.

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.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

Additional comments ?

Last time we asked, "How many past issues of Inside Annapolis Magazine do you have? " Out of all the responses, we found that most of our readers keep at least 3 issues of Inside Annapolis Magazine around the house, but a couple of our readers have over several years of issues! We're glad to hear that so many of you stay with us!

Thanks to all those that voted!

Results Posted Every Issue!!

Backyard Publications, LLC. ©2004. 433 Fourth St, Annapolis, MD 21403 - Phone 410-263-6300 - Fax 410-267-8668