The newest member of Cal State Long Beach campus police is adept at detecting trouble. She can sniff out problems, alert others of danger, and wag her tail in excitement.
Meet Avery, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever who recently joined the force as the school’s first Detection Dog. She is expected to help reduce time and cost associated with detection of suspected explosives and provide a few smiles.
“We respond to suspicious objects all the time on campus,” President Jane Close Conoley said. “Kids leave backpacks or someone is at an exhibit and leaves a box. This takes a lot of people power. For safety, we empty buildings while we (detect the threat level.)”
In the past, Conoley said in certain circumstances, the school has relied on the dog from the Long Beach Police Department. Having a dog on campus enables campus police to assess the situation quicker. Avery lives close by with her handler, Sgt. Ray Gonzalez.
“(From) a safety standpoint, I thought it was going to be a win for our police department,” Conoley said.
Long Beach is the sixth CSU campus to acquire a detection dog such as Avery, who is assigned the task of sniffing explosives only. Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have two dogs – one for explosives and one for drug detection.
According to Lt. Rick Goodwin, Avery’s training took 3-4 months, after which she earned her police badge/vest. She, however, will continue the highly technical training from Gonzalez as types of explosives continually change.
“When she finds something that’s suspicious, she sits down,” Goodwin said. “In her work environment, she’s completely focused.
“Notice her vest… the goal of training is that when the vest is on, it’s all business. When the vest is off, Avery will know ‘I can play with these students.’ It’s another cue to learning.”
Students can expect to see Avery on campus throughout the year in her secondary role – goodwill ambassador. Conoley said the dog will provide valuable public relations outreach to the community at such events as SOAR and Safety Talks, and perhaps even visit student groups and housing, just to “get students aware that there is this extra level of protection for them.”
“Safety is the primary thing, but it’s also a morale booster. Students love dogs,” Conoley said.
Extra safety and tail-wagging comes with a price tag, though.
Barbara Alpert of the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach donated the initial costs of acquiring Avery. Conoley said the constant care, feeding and training, however, needs to be raised annually. A Beachfunder has been set up with a goal of $5,000.
“There are ongoing costs -- training and some of the gear Avery has and none of that is cheap,” Conoley said. “It’s all specialized. Then there are the veterinarian bills and food.”