Christine Spigai

There is nothing like landing your very first job. After all the studying and training, it is rewarding to finally put your skills to work. You know what they say – find a job you enjoy, and never work a day in your life. That is certainly the case for Jean, whose first job is a perfect fit. Each morning, she cannot wait to get to the office and bury her nose in her work – literally.


Jean is a five-year-old yellow Labrador working as an MSA Security® Explosive Detection Canine and her office is the sprawling data center for a global financial institution. Her handler, James Volpe, says his partner was born to sniff out explosives. “Jean and I have been working together for two and a half years. She is an exceptional detection dog, with the right energy and enthusiasm for the job. I knew when we were training together that she would be a great partner,” explains James.


man in black uniform standing with a yellow labThe team is part of MSA’s growing fleet of more than 900 Explosive and Firearms Detection Canine Teams deployed globally. They completed MSA’s Canine Detection Training Program at the company’s flagship training center in Windsor, CT, where Jean was imprinted on all five families of commercial explosives, as well as homemade explosives. The pair then received operational training at one of MSA’s many regional ATF-licensed training sites before they were given their field assignment.


All MSA Detection Canine Teams are single-purpose, single-handler. This helps reinforce an effective working relationship and bond. MSA canines also live at home with their handlers’ families which fosters a strong connection and level of comfort, while allowing for daily training. As a food reward dog, Jean does not eat from a bowl. She is fed only when training, strengthening her interest and ability to detect explosive odors.


“Jean and I trust each other. She knows I’m on the other end of that leash and that we haveYellow lab sniffing white van an important job to do. We work in a very fluid environment that requires screening of all incoming deliveries, vehicles and guests. It can be demanding, but Jean has incredible stamina. We also conduct exterior perimeter and interior sweeps – that’s her favorite because the employees always greet her with a big smile. She loves people,” says James.


While the data center is their primary deployment, the pair also assume assignments at sporting and entertainment events throughout the tri-state area. James says that they enjoy and easily adapt to the change in site picture. “Screening in the choke point at the data center is detail driven. Jean screens on my command, although she doesn’t need a lot of direction. At the stadiums, she has the confidence to take the lead and work through large crowds to track explosive odor,” explains James.


All MSA canine handlers carry military or law enforcement backgrounds. James is a retired NYPD officer who worked in Manhattan and in the Brooklyn South Task Force before joining MSA nearly a decade ago. He credits his experience on the force for preparing him for his current role in high-consequence security. “I really enjoyed serving the community and working alongside fellow officers who were equally dedicated to their job. Today, I am proud to be an MSA canine handler. There is no other job like it and no other partner like Jean,” says James.


yellow labrador on grass with blue toy

Before partnering with Jean, James worked alongside another yellow Labrador for many years. Retired MSA Explosive Detection Canine Gelato enjoys a slower pace at home now, but Jean keeps her up to date on all her friends two yellow labradors playingfrom the office. On the weekend, Jean likes to leave work behind so she can spend more time with her best buddy at the dog park playing frisbee or tug-of-war.


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