K-9 Wesley

Name: K-9 “WESLEY”

Breed: Labrador Retriever (Male)

DOB: May 29, 2002

Retirement: 2012 (Age 10)

End of Service: September 20, 2016

Agency: City of Yakima Fire Department, Yakima, WA

Discipline: Single Purpose Accelerant Detection

Formal Schooling and Certifications: K-9 WESLEY’s training included six weeks of Initial Accelerant Detection Training at The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Canine Academy in Front Royal, Virginia. He was then placed with his handler, Jennifer Norton, and the two continued as a team for an additional five weeks of training. They graduated the academy in December 2004, as a Certified Accelerant Detection Team, one of 57 in the nation and the only team in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, in order to maintain their certification, they attended a recertification conference where they were tested for proficiency by an ATF chemist.

Career Stats: K-9 WESLEY had over 200 deployments in his career, including several ATF National Response Team (NRT) deployments, working as a member of an elite investigation team in different states across the nation.

Additional Information: K-9 WESLEY started his life and career with The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the country. He lived with a “puppy raiser” family in New Jersey for the first year of his life, where he was acclimated to as many things as possible. WESLEY then began school to become a guide dog for a seeing impaired individual. He went through an additional year and a half of training before he was released. It is believed WESLEY was near graduation but could not overcome his drive for something (most likely food or swimming). As a side note, only 1 out of 10 dogs make it through the entire program to become guide dogs.

Seeing his drive, US Customs quickly adopted WESLEY and started training him to be a “contraband dog”. These are the canines you see walking the conveyor belts at airports and the like. These dogs are looking for things that are not legal to transport into the US without being declared (fruit, plants, etc.). WESLEY was too mellow to do the aggressive alert they required, digging at the source, so he was released from this program. Just down the road from the custom’s canine academy was the ATF academy. This is where WESLEY ended up. With the drive to work for food and the mellowness to not disturb a possible crime scene’s evidence, he became a very skilled Accelerant Detection Canine.

WESLEY and Jennifer worked for seven years for the Yakima Fire Department. During those years, they were together nearly 24/7. WESLEY went to work and lived at home with Jennifer. They were deployed regularly all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho, assisting agencies with locating possible ignitable liquid evidence at fire scenes. They traveled the nation for NRT activations as needed. They also attended many community events and regularly gave presentations to schools and local organizations.

ATF has a mandatory retirement age of 10 years old, so on May 29, 2012, WESLEY retired from service. He had no problem transitioning into the retired life, where food and swimming became his favorite activities. He continued to live at the Norton home with his family until he passed away in September 2016.

Click here to read an article honoring Wesley’s end of service.

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