- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

A four-year-old chocolate Labrador named Rocky and his handler, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Eva Lingenfelter, have been selected from more than 1,100 CBP canine teams to represent the agency in the annual “Paws to Recognize” tribute to working dogs.

Rocky, an explosives detector dog assigned at the Port of Los Angeles, came to CBP from the Lake Erie Labrador Retriever Rescue Center of Ohio.

“Rocky follows in the footsteps, or maybe I should say paws prints, of some very prestigious CBP canine teams,” said Deborah J. Spero, acting CBP commissioner. “The CBP dogs are great assets in our arsenal against drugs, smuggled illegal aliens, and all other illegal and prohibited items.”

The three previous CBP candidates, Jacko, Trouble and Crazy Joe, were all voted “Top Dog” winners in the Paws tribute.

Other nominated dogs are Hero, a Labrador retriever who visits patients at hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other health facilities as part of the Paws Patrol; Quanto, a German shepherd who’s certified in search and rescue, explosive detection and tracking for the Cocke County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Department; Xena, a German shepherd who serves as a seeing-eye dog in Oregon; and Polo, a German shepherd who just returned from a tour of duty in Kuwait with the Air Force.

“All of the dogs nominated in this competition are impressive and deserving of this award for the service they do; however, Rocky has a very explosive personality and should do well in the competition,” Ms. Lingenfelter said.

After graduating from a 15-week course at the Canine Enforcement Training Center in Front Royal in December 2003, Rocky and Ms. Lingenfelter headed to their duty station in California, Mrs. Spero said. Rocky now works searching for explosives in a variety of environments such as cargo, luggage, buildings, passengers, trains, aircraft, and land and sea containers, she said.

On an average day, Rocky screens thousands of international passengers, as well as thousands of pieces of checked and hand-carried luggage and cargo, Mrs. Spero said.

The Paws to Recognize program showcases the contributions that thousands of professionally trained service dogs make. The winner of the competition will be announced in a “top dog” awards ceremony in September.

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