Bomb dogs from across Southeast test their noses in Aiken Co.

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Mar. 6, 2014

NEW ELLENTON, S.C. (WRDW) – Each dog has a nose that’s almost better than a well-oiled machine.

"Machines are great and all that, but it's just hard to beat the olfaction of a dog,” says Calvin Jeffcoat, the president of the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) for Region 2.

On Thursday, forty law enforcement teams flocked to the New Ellenton Community Center to test their canines.

The first test included 18 cans. Six had explosive materials, six were empty, and the other six had distracters like dog food. Each handler and dog had unlimited time to pinpoint the explosives.

The second test took place outside. There were five cars, and two of them have explosive material inside. To get its certification, each dog had to find those two bombs in only a few minutes.

Later in the day, the canines sniffed for bombs in boxes and buildings.

"Any officer knows he has to maintain his firearms and all his annual certifications. These dogs have to have an annual certification and have to keep their proficiency up,” says Jeffcoat.

Organizers with the USPCA say the trials serve as a pass or fail test for the dogs. If they fail, they risk losing their day-jobs at law enforcement departments in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

But on Thursday, the mix of German Shepherds, Belgians, and Labrador Retrievers performed well.

Teams from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, WSI-SRS, and Aiken Department of Public Safety joined teams from places like Wilmington, N.C. and South Georgia.

Deputy Ted Xanthakis and K9 Dash showed up from the nearby Lexington County Sheriff's Department.

"When you smell the sauce of spaghetti, it's spaghetti sauce. Well, when a dog walks in, he smells each individual ingredient,” explains Xanthakis. “He'll smell the salt, the pepper, the oregano."

It's that nose that'll sniff out explosives Thursday, track humans Friday, and identify drugs on Saturday as part of this three-day trial for the dogs. For Xanthakis and the others, it's tireless work for rewarding results.

"Either it's a wanted person, a fleeing suspect, to a missing elderly, or missing child. Locating that person or child is the most gratifying thing I get out of the job,” he says.

And it’s all thanks to the four-legged officers who are paid with treats and toys.

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