Christine Spigai

Most folks prefer to stay out of the hospital. Yet, for MSA Security® Canine Handler Manuel Cordero and five-year-old yellow Labrador, Selma, there is no place they would rather be. Earlier this year, the MSA Firearm Detection Canine Team began a deployment at one of the region’s largest and most respected healthcare providers.


photo of male with a yellow labradorWith nearly one million patients visiting the hospital annually and a medical team that includes more than 1,800 health professionals, this is an extremely busy hospital that spans multiple buildings. Manuel and Selma have a lot of ground to cover in their mission to keep patients, visitors and staff safe by sniffing out the threat of firearms while also serving as a visual deterrent to criminals and bad actors. On most days, the pair will clock up to seven miles on foot as they search high-traffic areas open to the public throughout the sprawling campus. Manuel says the fast pace suits him and his dog just fine. “Selma loves to work. She is always high energy and eager to get the job done. Her sense of smell is incredible, which helps make us extremely effective in maintaining a secure environment,” explains Manuel.


All MSA Firearm Detection Canine Teams are first trained as Explosive Detection Canines, where they learn to detect all five families of commercial and military grade explosives, including gunpowder and homemade explosives. Dogs intended for firearm detection deployment are then imprinted to detect a range of odors associated with firearms, whether previously fired or static. The dogs undergo extensive and ongoing operational training to effectively combat the evolving firearms threat.


This team has been together for two and a half years and Manuel says he cannot imagine a more rewarding career. Although, as someone who never even had a dog for a pet, it is not one that he always envisioned. “My son was working for MSA at the time and told me about the opportunity. It sounded interesting and as a former Marine accustomed to high-threat environments, I applied for the position. It was the best decision ever,” he says with a smile. “Selma is more than my partner – she’s family – and what I do each day really does not feel like work.”


All MSA canine handlers carry law enforcement or military backgrounds like Manuel. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after his high school graduation at the age of 18. Over four years, he served in Operation Desert Storm and Somalia as a machine gunner squad leader and eventually rose to the rank of Corporal. He considers it a privilege to have served his country alongside brave men and women, crediting the military for instilling in him many of the qualities he relies on as a handler. “We lived Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful. As a Marine, I learned discipline, attention to detail, and a commitment to success and hard work,” says Manuel.


For all their hard work, this pair also enjoys their downtime, but neither is accustomed to taking it photo of man with yellow labrador at the beacheasy. Manuel and Selma are always on the go finding new adventures. Their best days include long walks outdoors and a refreshing dip in the lake.


To meet additional MSA’s Explosive and Firearms Detection Canine Teams, and for timely content from MSA’s subject matter experts, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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