You wouldn’t go up to a Transportation Security Administration officer and scratch him behind his ears, would you? So when you see a K-9 dog at the airport, resist the urge to pat him on the head. The canines with the TSA Explosives Detection unit are working hard, sniffing around for harmful material on bags, under cars, on trouser legs — really anywhere a snout can snuffle.
Though we can’t touch the dogs, we can make them our BFs, at least on laminated paper. Last year, the agency started producing collectible cards featuring the members of the TSA team, more than 107 animals with a nose for things that could go “kaboom.” The novelty items feature a close-up photo of the dog and its biographical info: e.g., Lino, a German wirehaired pointer, born Dec. 1, 2010, educated at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A smaller image on the flip side shows the dogs in action, like Cymro investigating a garbage can and Jolly poking around a bench. The tiny print describes the dog’s specialty and career highlights.
“Jenny has supported various high profile events such as the 2009 Presidential Inauguration and Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis,” reads the card for the 13-year-old black Labrador retriever.
The free trading cards are available at participating airports, including Reagan National, Denver, Austin, Chicago O’Hare and Fort Lauderdale. Seek out a handler wearing a Department of Homeland Security patch or TSA logo. (Don’t confuse the federal staff with local airport police, who also employ pooches.) And remember to express your gratitude with a smile, not a cuddle.
Here’s a sample gallery of the canine crew, above.