Meet Golden Sproul

Smell Safety: SF State Campus Security uses Bomb-Sniffing Dogs to Increase Safety
By: Colleen Sill, The Golden Gate Express, May 14, 2003

At the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, Sgt. Brenda Flores hands out stickers, while Victoria Lawton-Diez pets Sproul, a police dog that can sniff out potential bombs. Michael G. Schennum / Online Photo Editor

Sproul, a golden retriever, lay in the middle of adoring children in the lobby of the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. Her trainer, UC Berkeley Sergeant Brenda Flores, and her handler, police officer, Darcy Smith, talk to the children and answer their questions before Sproul shows off her unique skills by finding firecrackers hidden in the lobby of the science hall.

The demonstration, which was called "Sniffing Out Trouble," featured three year-old Sproul, the official UC Berkeley bomb-sniffing dog, as part of the Lawrence Hall of Science 10th annual celebration of the National Sense of Smell day on Saturday, April 26.

According to Sgt. Flores, Sproul, is trained to sniff out 14 kinds of explosives around the UC Berkeley campus before sports and political events, or anything controversial, takes place at the school.

Sproul, named after Sproul Hall, a building on the UC Berkeley campus, is the only bomb- sniffing dog on any UC campus right now.

SF State has the only bomb-sniffing dog on a CSU campus. Tobi Jo and handler, Todd Iriyama, have been working the SF State campus for 6 years.

"There aren’t that many of us out there, we need more," said Flores, referring to the need for more bomb-sniffing dogs on university campuses. To her they are a helpful way to not only find potential danger, but also to deter it. Flores believes that if a person knows an event is going to be swept by a dog, they could be discouraged from trying anything.

For a dog to become a certified bomb-sniffing dog, it must first go through a 12-week training period where it is rewarded with a toss of a ball after sitting in front of the cardboard box that contains the scent of an explosive. Sproul was given only five weeks of intense training.

Sproul, whose favorite snack is bananas, was purchased from a retriever rescue organization in Littlerock, CA for $150 after the attacks of September 11th to ensure safety on the UC Berkeley campus.

The dogs do not come cheap, once certified. Because of her training, Sproul is now worth $18,000 because she is a certified bomb-sniffing dog.

The dogs are trained to sniff out possible explosives. But just as importantly, they are taught to sit quietly in front of the potential bomb because they run the risk of detonating it if they attack. In the case of a real bomb, a team of professionals will come to handle the explosive.

"We haven’t had any real threats yet," said Flores.

The Lawrence Hall of Science held other demonstrations and events to get the crowd of parents and children in touch with their sense of smell.

"Our sense of smell is our strongest at birth, as we age, we lose it," said Lawrence Hall of Science events organizer Jennifer Amiel. Amiel, along with other event workers, wore a t-shirt that reads, "Get in touch with your sense of smell."

The Lawrence Hall of Science was one of ten children’s museums around the country that hosted events on Saturday. Other museums in Boston, Phoenix and Atlanta held a rotten sneaker contest and essay contests on odors.

The Berkeley event featured such activities as, "What’s That Smell." People were given small unlabeled bottles and told to guess what the smell belonged to, like coconut and strawberry. Participants were rewarded for their guesses with scented pencils.

The educational events, sponsored by the Sense of Smell Institute in New York, strive to teach "children and adults about the mysteries of the sense of smell and the important role it plays in our well being," according to the Sense of Smell Institute web-site.

Sproul on the Prowl: New Police Dog-in-Training will Add to Campus Security Arsenal
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley, November 7, 2001


UC Police Officer Darcy Dickinson is handler for the youngest member of the force, three-year-old Sproul, who is currently in training to sniff out explosives. Joanne Connelly photo

Sproul, a spunky golden retriever, will do just about anything for a chance to play with her spiky red rubber ball. It is this eagerness — and an incredible sense of smell — that won her a job at the UC Police Department.

This canine officer is being trained by Sergeant Brenda Flores to sniff out explosives for the police department, a crucial skill in a time of heightened security concerns.
“Sproul is an explosives detection dog,” said Flores. “If we get a bomb threat or have a visiting dignitary on campus, she can quickly sweep the area to determine if an explosive is present.”

In the past, the campus has had to borrow a dog from another police force to perform these functions.

Flores and Officer Darcy Dickinson, Sproul’s handler, work with the three-year-old dog every day. During a typical exercise, Sproul must identify the different scents coming from a series of cardboard boxes. When she gets it right, she gets to play with her beloved rubber ball.

So far, Sproul has learned to identify five odors. She must master an additional four to be certified, which should happen in early December.

At the end of the day, Sproul goes home with Dickinson to the comforts enjoyed by “normal” dogs.

Sproul was found through a golden retriever rescue service, said Police Chief Victoria Harrison. The department was interested in finding a dog both with an aptitude for the training and for which it could provide a home. Sproul fit the bill.

Once her bomb-sniffing certification is done, Sproul will then be trained in search- and-rescue operations, Harrison said. Sproul will be one of the few police dogs certified in both bomb sniffing and search and rescue. She will serve as a role model for the Home Team’s K9 Search and Rescue unit, a group of campus pet owners and dogs who train to volunteer their services in the event of a local disaster.


Bomb-Sniffing Canine Joins University Police Department

By K.C. Crain, Daily Californian Contribution Writer, November 8, 2001
Photo by Bryan Lin

Sproul, the UC Police Department's newest addition, enjoyed playtime on campus Wednesday with officer Darcy Dickinson.
The newest member of UC police is a yellow-haired rookie with a special talent-she can smell bombs.

"Sproul" is a three-year-old golden retriever that was recently hired by UC police to aid in their ability to respond to bomb threats.

"(Sproul's) being trained as an explosive-detection canine and that's what she is going to be used for," said Lt. Adan Tejada. "She's not going to be a go-out-on-patrol-and- catch-suspects dog."

The excited young Sproul currently spends the day seeking out specific scents during her training to become a certified bomb sniffer.

"There is a certain set protocol in training to learn to detect bombs," Tejada said, adding that when Sproul's ability reached official levels of expertise, the department would be able to use her operationally.

Sproul's hiring was arranged for in advance and is not related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Tejada said.

UC police officer Darcy Dickinson, Sproul's handler, spends day and night with the spirited dog, and she's the first to admit that Sproul is an energetic creature.

"She's perfect because you need a dog with a lot of energy, so they don't get tired of searching," Dickinson said.

Sproul's job has become more high-profile because of recent fears and jitters over terrorism.

"Suspicious package cases-if you look at Sept. 11 thru October and (the same period) last year through this year-they're up over two-thirds," Tejada said.

With Sproul a permanent addition to the force, the university no longer has to fret over suspicious packages and whether or not to import bomb-sniffing dogs from elsewhere, Tejada said.

Sproul is also good as a preventative measure. When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke at commencement last year, bomb-sniffing dogs used by the Air Force were called in to test the Greek Theatre. But not everyone enjoys the protection of the State Department.

"For controversial speakers, (like) if Yasser Arafat was going to speak on campus, you could use Sproul to check the venue," Tejada said.

Not only is she valuable, she is popular too.

"It takes me like 20 minutes to get to the locker room in the morning. Everyone wants to pet her," Dickinson said.

When asked if police were worried about Sproul being exposed to anthrax, Tejada said simply, "No."

"The type of package that's a concern from an explosive point of view is different from those suspected of bioterror," Tejada added.

Sproul is not the final solution to a bomb threat, but more of a indicator, Tejada said.

"If you have a situation where you have a (suspicious) package, Sproul can tell you if there is something there," he said. "If Sproul doesn't hit on a package, you don't just assume that the package is OK."

The puppy is not much of a burden on the department's wallet, either-the overall budget will be less than $2,500 a year, said Tejada.

"We have a unique opportunity in that we have a sergeant that is a state-certified dog trainer," Tejada said. "If we were to buy a fully trained bomb dog, it would cost us literally thousands of dollars."

One of the most pressing issues for police was finding a name for the energetic retriever.

"We were looking at who are campus icons," Tejada said. "Wheeler was already taken, and we were the police, we were in Sproul Hall, on Sproul Plaza; it seemed like a good name."


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