A sweet new K-9 trooper is headed to the Rutland barracks of the Vermont State Police.
Maple, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, will begin training in Connecticut this fall as an explosives sniffer. The pooch will then start working with her handler, Trooper Steven Gelder, when his current bomb dog, Nacoma, retires in January.
Maple was Marjorie when Gelder picked her up in late May. She’d dropped out of a program for potential Seeing Eye pups and ended up with the Connecticut State Police, which finds the dogs and tests them for promise as bomb sniffers at a facility in New York.
Once Gelder got his hands on her, he decided to crowdsource a more fitting name. Maple was the clear winner in the ensuing naming contest on the Vermont State Police Facebook page. Dynamite and Boomer were the next runners-up, but some Vermonters pointed out in the comments section that such names might cause confusion for police when searching for explosives.
The Vermont State Police currently has three certified explosive sniffers, according to Gelder, in addition to a few dogs working for the Transportation Security Administration at the Burlington International Airport.
Maple syrup can be pricey — and so was Maple the pup. Bomb dogs, which are paid for by U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants, cost about $3,000 before training, according to Gelder. The dogs generally do not work longer than eight years. After retirement, their handlers have the option of adopting them.
Although her formal training has yet to begin, Maple has been riding in Gelder’s police cruiser and making appearances at public events such as the Vermont City Marathon & Relay in Burlington. Those activities help her get comfortable with the car and large crowds, said Gelder.
Maple will train on her own for a month before Gelder joins her for two additional months. Here’s hoping her schooling won’t prove too ruff.