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Eebbers, the TSA’s oldest and cutest bomb-sniffing dog, is retiring after a decade of service

A Transportation Security Agency K9 named Eebbers has retired after nearly a decade in service during which he’s earned a reputation for being the agency’s oldest working bomb-sniffing dog, as well as the cutest.

This is an objective fact (although it’s also true that every dog ​​is the best dog): Eebbers won the TSA’s “2022 Cutest Canine Contest” in August, just before celebrating his retirement with a treat at his home base of Minneapolis-St .Paul International Airport (MSP).

The 11-year-old Vizsla-Labrador mix was born into the TSA puppy program at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and at the time of his retirement was the last remaining dog in the puppy program, still working a day job for the agency. He was named after US Army Pvt. James Ebbers, who died in 2002 at the age of 19 in Djibouti, Africa while assigned to the 551st Military Police Company (based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky).

In addition to his work sniffing explosives as a passenger control dog at MSP, Eebbers has also assisted with security at major sporting events including two Super Bowls, the Indianapolis 500, an NCAA National Championship football game, and the Special Olympics World Games. And he makes time for fun too.

“He stays very active every day, even during the cold Minnesota winters, and he loves to swim in one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes in the summer,” according to TSA.

Passenger screening dogs like Eebbers are trained to detect the smell of explosives or explosive materials among travelers, typically at security checkpoints, and to alert their handlers if they sniff anything suspicious. They’re tested regularly to make sure they’re fit for duty at busy airports — and while they’re sociable, the agency says, they’re working dogs that should only be touched and fed by their handlers.

“His ability to track down his trained scents amazes me every day,” Jean Carney, Eebber’s handler and lifelong partner, told Minnesota Star Tribune.

She described him as smart, gentle and polite, adding that he would be waiting by the stairs at 3:30 a.m., ready to go to work.

Most dogs retire by age 7 or 8 due to the demands of the high-pressure job, according to Carney, who is also retiring. She said she wanted Eebbers to “enjoy his final years of just being a dog.”

“It’s inevitable that he’ll get to a point where he’ll slow down and maybe not be as competent as he was when he was young,” she said, according to CBS affiliate KENS5. “I didn’t want him to go out quietly.”

That was definitely not the case. Last month, Eebbers won the title of TSA’s Cutest Dog in a nationwide social media contest, where he was chosen by public vote from four finalists (seized by TSA employees from a field of nearly 100).

Days later, he and Carney celebrated their last day of work with some special surprises.

Eebber’s “Don’t Pet” vest has been replaced with a standard collar and leash, meaning he could finally get scratches from his peers and admirers. He was showered with stuffed animals and celebrated with several bomb-shaped cakes, and both he and Carney received plaques.

“It was the culmination of what we have worked for all these years. Just letting him grow into the dog he deserves,” Carney told KENS5. “He’s worked so hard over the years. He was so dedicated and such a hard worker and the only thing he asked for is is [for] this toy.”

So what does post-retirement bliss hold in store for Eebbers? First things first, according to Carney, a swim in Iowa’s Lake Okoboji and a long walk with his sister Etti (who is herself an FBI retired).

Eebbers and his fans have much more to look forward to. Later this year, for example, TSA will announce the availability of its 2023 dog calendar – featuring Eebbers on the cover.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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