Weekly Feature

2017-08-09 / Lifestyles

NFTA veteran bomb dog a repeat pick for high-profile security details

by ALAN RIZZO
Reporter
ALAN RIZZO
Reporter


King, a German short-haired pointer who serves as an explosives detection dog with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Transit Police, searches for a planted source of gunpowder at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. King, a German short-haired pointer who serves as an explosives detection dog with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Transit Police, searches for a planted source of gunpowder at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. I n his short but illustrious working life, King, one of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s top explosives detection dogs, has seen a lot.

In security sweeps at events across the nation, the 7-year-old German short-haired pointer has met a host of dignitaries and entertainers, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He swept the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts when Obama visited in 2013 and mingled with presidential candidates at last year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

He’s provided security at professional football games in Buffalo and beyond and has met Lady Gaga, John Legend and Bruno Mars.


On the hunt for bombs, King, 7, a veteran explosives detection dog with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Transit Police, searches the terminal at Buffalo Niagara International Airport on July 28. Working with him is veteran NFTA Officer Dave Capretto, who has been his partner since 2013. 
Photos by Kathleen Kramer. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com On the hunt for bombs, King, 7, a veteran explosives detection dog with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Transit Police, searches the terminal at Buffalo Niagara International Airport on July 28. Working with him is veteran NFTA Officer Dave Capretto, who has been his partner since 2013. Photos by Kathleen Kramer. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com “The dog travels,” said veteran NFTA Officer Dave Capretto, King’s partner.

But for King, one of eight dogs used by the NFTA, it’s not the people he meets but the work that’s exciting, because explosives detection is his life.

“When he’s working, it’s play day,” said Capretto, who sees King’s anticipation every morning when he takes him into work at 6 a.m. “The minute he hears the truck start up, he’s ready to go to work, so he’s barking, he’s jiggling, he’s wiggling; he’s like a little kid who thinks that he’s going to an amusement park for the day.”

Capretto said King, who serves in both the metro and aviation divisions of the NFTA Transit Police, deserves the top assignments he gets because of the high caliber of his training and because his floppy ears and calm disposition put the public at ease.

King’s zeal for the job comes from an elite education he received from the Transportation Security Administration at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Capretto said he’s dual-certified by the TSA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect trace evidence and can find any compound related to explosives, regardless of size.

“The minutest of minute he can pick up, so if somebody shoots a gun and the shell comes out, he’ll be able to find that shell or the gun,” Capretto said. “He’s very astute. He doesn’t miss anything.”

When they’re not traveling to major events, Capretto and King are sweeping Buffalo Niagara International Airport for threats, conducting random checks of baggage, ticket counters and travelers inside the terminal, as well as the undercarriages of planes out on the tarmac.

On July 28, King was searching for a 2-pound container of gunpowder planted by Capretto, one possible ingredient of an improvised explosive device.

To find it, he was using a technique called bracketing, in which a dog zig-zags across a room or down a hallway to locate the strongest concentration of a trained odor, according to Michelle Negron, an assistant press secretary with the TSA.

In less than a minute, he had located his quarry behind a garbage can and sat motionless, all business. Capretto rewarded him in the usual way, with his favorite light blue Kong chew toy.

At 7 years old, King is one year away from being eligible to retire, and because it’s unlikely he will be paired with a new partner, it’s possible he will retire next June with Capretto, who will be turning 65 and is looking forward to spending more time with a dog who’s become part of the family.

“He’s like my kid,” Capretto said, explaining that he traded in his camper for a larger model called a toy hauler just so King could ride in the back when he and his wife,

Margaret, go on vacation. “I don’t like leaving him alone at home.”

Capretto said he’s lucky to have a partner who has become a “top-notch” police dog and who bounced back from parasites and a six-week stay in a kennel after his last partner had a heart attack and had to retire.

“I just love the dog, and he knows he’s loved by our family,” Capretto said. “He does his very best to please us. And he does, every day, by coming to work and doing his job.”

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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