Like all work or service dogs, MSA’s Explosive Detection Canines (EDC) undergo extensive training to be able to perform the work they do. Before entering MSA’s proprietary explosive detection training program, canines must receive initial socialization and obedience training. Periodically, canines who received initial training in a different line of work will be redirected to explosive detection based on their temperament and skills.
We recently shared with you the story of canine Gilda and her puppy raiser, Beth. Like Gilda, Tammy is one of MSA’s EDCs from Guiding Eyes for The Blind. Tammy’s puppy raiser, Colleen, also stopped by the MSA training facility for a visit. This week, we have a few words from Colleen.
Colleen and Tammy
Tammy began her training with me in August of 2012 at only eight weeks old. She joined me at the University of Delaware, where I was studying Animal Science & Wildlife Conservation. Raising Tammy taught me a great deal of responsibility and patience. Training and caring for her was a full time commitment. Each day marked a new achievement in her training, whether it was making it to class without her pulling on the leash or sitting while being pet by a stranger.
Collen and Tammy
At the end of training, each guide dog must take the In-For Training (IFT) test. The test presents the dog with a number of obstacles that replicate real world situations which a dog may encounter when working with a blind person. Tammy passed the test in December, 2013, and then moved on to harness training. I received updates every 6 to 8 weeks until she was released from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in May, 2014. Tammy was released because she was very high energy and quickly distracted in new environments. However, these qualities, paired with her high food motivation, made her a great candidate for explosive detection training.
When I visited Tammy at MSA it was obvious that she loved what she was doing. She couldn't stop sniffing the training tins or luggage and really enjoyed searching for the specific scents that she was trained to find. To her, it was a puzzle rather than work. Tammy is a very smart girl who is constantly willing to please and I am so proud of her and of her accomplishments.
Collen and Tammy at MSA’s EDC Training Facility
I am grateful for the life-changing experience of raising an amazing dog who became my best friend. Watching a dog succeed at a task or command that you've trained them to do is extremely rewarding and enlightening. I was able to help make a difference in someone else's life by using my training skills and passion for animals. That fact makes it all worthwhile, and hopefully this is only the beginning for me. I never considered raising Tammy “work” because I enjoyed every aspect of it, even in the most challenging moments.
Tammy is now working in Chicago. She and her handler, Emanuel, make a great team and Emanuel frequently sends me updates on their work together. I am incredibly grateful that I still get to be a part of her life. I wish Tammy the best in her bright future and I'm proud to have been her raiser.