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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
New Police Dog-in-Training will Add to Campus Security
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley, November 7, 2001
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
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
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
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."
excited young Sproul currently spends the day seeking out
specific scents during her training to become a certified
"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.
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.
controversial speakers, (like) if Yasser Arafat was going to
speak on campus, you could use Sproul to check the venue,"
Not only is she valuable, she is popular
"It takes me like 20 minutes to get to the
locker room in the morning. Everyone wants to pet her,"
When asked if police were worried
about Sproul being exposed to anthrax, Tejada said simply,
"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
"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.
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."
FAIR USE NOTICE
This article contains
copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically
authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my
efforts to provide background knowledge on areas related to canine cancer. I
believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with
Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed
without profit for educational purposes.