One recent night on the way to work, MSA Security® Canine Handler Claudia Gelzer spotted an abandoned dog in distress on New York City’s Belt Parkway. Without thinking twice, she pulled over to see how she might help. Fitz, aptly named after the looming JFK International Airport in the distance that evening, has since been nursed back to health and now is well assimilated into Claudia’s family. This touching story illustrates Claudia’s steadfast passion to serve. Oh, and this dedicated handler and her trusted canine partner, Wyatt III, still managed to make it to work on time following the unexpected highway rescue mission!
Claudia and Wyatt have been screening cargo since training at MSA’s flagship training center in Windsor, CT, in 2021. It is an opportunity that Claudia says she eyed for a long time. “I started at MSA as an operative in Boston. I used that opportunity as a stepping-stone to fulfill my lifelong dream of working with a canine,” explains Claudia. As MSA continued to expand its canine fleet to meet growing international demand, a door opened for Claudia and she eagerly accepted. It did not take long for her and three-year-old black Labrador Wyatt to form a natural connection.
Today, the two are busy in Claudia’s home state of New York, working daily at a mix of government and commercial sites searching cargo. A properly imprinted and trained canine remains the most effective, safe and operationally efficient tool for cargo screening. In this environment, bomb dogs offer key distinctions over traditional screening methods. At this time, modern technology simply does not offer the speed necessary to screen large quantities of air cargo quickly enough to satisfy the worldwide supply chain. Wyatt makes quick work of entire containers, pallets, skids or ULDs, which equates to considerable labor, operational and time efficiencies for MSA clients.
Like all MSA canines, Wyatt was selected for his keen sense of smell, strong drive, intelligence and stable temperament – yet, Claudia says it is his incredible spirt and energy that make him an exceptional partner. “I am very fortunate to have a partner with such a strong work ethic who is anxious to go to work each day,” says Claudia. “Wyatt loves to search because he loves to find. I trust him implicitly, knowing that if he alerts, a true threat exists.”
A common desire to keep people safe makes this duo tick. As a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, Claudia spent most of her career searching for mariners lost at sea. Her strong desire to serve in an environmental and humanitarian role prompted her to join the military. “I am very proud of my service with the Coast Guard, an outstanding, tight-knit military organization. My original mission occupational specialty (MOS) was hazmat response, but I grew into the iconic mission of search and rescue. I loved it and it was a big part of why I stayed so long,” she says. During her tenure, she completed two tours off the shores of New England, as well as the western rivers of Kentucky.
As much as Claudia and Wyatt love to work, she says home is where the heart is and downtime is a treasure she enjoys spending with her wife, Wendy. Although she concedes that when they get home, it’s Wyatt who generally steals the show. “Wyatt gets all the attention from Fitz and our Belgian Malinois mix, Boom. They are always excited to hang out and I am so grateful to know how much they love one another,” says Claudia.