His main job is agroterrorism and, as a member of the elite Beagle Brigade at Miami International Airport, he is one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s most loyal employees. Never mind that they call him Trouble, or that he was once rescued from a Texas animal shelter.
CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner thinks the 31-pound, 6-year-old beagle’s keenly honed sniffing ability gives him a leg up in rooting out potentially disastrous infestations from harmful pests and diseases, recording no less than 115 “notable interceptions” as a member of CBP’s Canine Enforcement Program.
Trouble’s work at sniffing out the deadly Mediterranean and Caribbean fruit flies, prohibited meats, vegetables and fruits and animal byproducts that could introduce foreign pests or diseases in the United States — including a biochemical terrorist weapon — have earned him Mr. Bonner’s nomination as the nation’s top service dog.
“With increases in international travel, there are mounting threats to America’s agriculture industry,” Mr. Bonner said. “The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Canine Enforcement program is growing and is aimed at combating terrorism. Trouble has been trained to prevent agroterrorism.”
It’s going to be a tough road for the brown and white beagle to win the nationwide contest, known as Paws to Recognize and sponsored by Pedigree. Crazy Joe, another member of the CBP Canine Enforcement Program, was last year’s winner, honored at an August ceremony held in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, where his paw prints were enshrined in the Canine World Heroes Walk of Fame.
With more than $11 million in drug seizures, Crazy Joe earned the title as one of the bureau’s “Top Dogs,” and was an easy winner in the Paws to Recognize contest, an award given as a part of an international program that honors the contributions of professional service dogs.
Trouble is one of six dogs nominated for the 2004 award.
The other nominees are Barley, a guide dog whose partner is a blind, multiple organ transplant survivor; Flaky, a U.S. War Dogs Association animal now serving with the U.S. Special Forces in Iraq; Gentle Ben, a Delta Society Pet Partner who provides animal-assisted activities and therapy to troubled youths; Kilo’s Black Molli, a National Association for Search and Rescue dog who recently found a mentally challenged child lost in a densely wooded area; and Too, a North American Police Work Dog Association animal who is the only two-time recipient of the association’s medal of valor and has been credited with saving the lives of three police officers.
Trouble began his federal career in 2001 as a member of the canine unit at the Agriculture Department, which has since been absorbed by CBP as a part of the Department of Homeland Security. His partner is canine Officer Sherrie Ann Keblish.
“We make a great team,” Officer Keblish said. “We’ve been together for the past three years and have built a strong bond. He is not only one of the finest detector dogs, but a great companion. Trouble’s enthusiasm starts very early in the morning and is contagious. He is always ready to work.”
Trouble and his handler have seized 1,834 prohibited items, including 1,541 plants and 697 animal products totaling 853 pounds of meat. The team recorded 115 notable interceptions and prevented a potential disaster for Florida’s citrus industry.
Most recently, Trouble sniffed out a quince fruit, carried as part of a passenger’s lunch, which was infested with 20 Mediterranean fruit fly larvae. This was the second time Trouble found the Mediterranean fruit fly.
“Trouble’s contributions help prevent foreign pests and diseases from entering our country, which could damage agricultural crops or cost American taxpayers millions of dollars to control or eradicate,” Mr. Bonner said. “Following in Crazy Joe’s pawsteps as this year’s Customs and Border Protection nominee would be a daunting task for most dogs, but not this one.
“With his seizure record, it is no wonder the other officers say … ‘Here comes Trouble,’” he said.