Castle’s K9 in Mechanicsburg has been training police dogs for more than 40 years. But public safety needs have changed a lot since then, and now many of the dogs are trained to find explosives.
The company ran another recent session for the dogs. Trainer Bill Castle saw the need for bomb-sniffing dogs early on, long before 9/11 made it a priority.
“Of course, after 9/11 we got real busy, it took us 2 years to catch up,” says Castle. “My wife said to me many times, she said you were right about explosives and you said 20 years ago, explosive dogs are going to be needed.”
After the Boston Marathon bombing last year, Castle saw more demand for the skill again. He says it moves in cycles after terror events.
“This country’s not proactive, we’re reactive,” says Castle. “We need to be proactive, we need to be ready for these terrorists.”
At one recent training, police K9 officers took their dogs through drills, finding explosives in a fire station, in a field within several trucks, and a hall filled with luggage.
The dogs are trained to sniff out more than a dozen types of explosives, including the most common, gunpowder. To them, it’s a game; when they find one, they get a toy as a reward.
“Just prior today before we went into the fire house there, I just wanted to give him a break, a chance to the bathroom,” says handler Sgt. Harold Weary of his dog Brutus. “And he was searching the grass, he was searching the whole area because he just wants to work.”