A training center inspired by canine rescue work after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is graduating its first class of working dogs.
Socks, a yellow Labrador retriever, was fitted with a mortarboard (that’s a hat worn at graduations) at Tuesday’s commencement ceremony at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She will become the first dog on the campus police force at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Socks is among seven dogs in the first class at the center. Cindy Otto, a longtime emergency clinician at the university’s veterinary school, wanted to honor the animals who worked so hard after terrorists struck the United States in 2001.
“I spent 10 days at Ground Zero taking care of the working dogs there and recognized what an incredible gift those dogs are to our society and how important they are,” said Otto, who is now the center’s director. (Ground Zero is site of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.)
All 16 dogs being trained at the center live with volunteers who care for them when they’re not learning how to sniff out explosives, drugs or missing persons.
Six other dogs who graduated with Socks are still awaiting permanent placements. Officials said local police and fire departments have expressed interest in those dogs.
Socks has started advanced bomb detection school, said Maureen Rush, Penn’s vice president for public safety.
“Socks is way ahead of the game because of the great work that’s been done already through the Working Dog Center,” Rush said.