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Thursday, 03 July 2014 00:00

All in a dog day’s work: Beloit Fire Department K-9 nominated for hero dog award

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Glory, a Beloit Fire Department K-9, assists in a fire investigation with her handler, Lt. Keith Lynn. Glory has made it to the semifinal round of the Hero Dog Awards contest held annually by the American Humane Association. Glory, a Beloit Fire Department K-9, assists in a fire investigation with her handler, Lt. Keith Lynn. Glory has made it to the semifinal round of the Hero Dog Awards contest held annually by the American Humane Association. Beloit Fire Department

STATELINE NEWS -- Glory should know shortly if she’s advanced from the semifinal round of the Hero Dog Awards contest held annually by the American Humane Association.

The Beloit Fire Department K-9, trained in accelerant detection, works under handler Lt. Keith Lynn at the Beloit Fire Department, and was nominated for the contest in February. Voting in the semifinal round ended Monday.

"Each year folks can nominate their courageous canines by going to our website and writing a short description of how their heroic hound made a difference in their lives or the lives of others," said Mark Stubins, a spokesman for the American Humane Association. "This year we received 135 nominations of dogs who work to save lives on the battlefield, who lend sight or hearing to the disabled, or who protect our homes and communities."

Last Monday the final round of polling wrapped up for the Hero Dog competition, and this round of votes will decide which dogs become finalists.

So what makes Glory a hero?

Even though the yellow Labrador is only 2 years old, she’s already had extensive training and held two different jobs. 

"Before she came to us, Glory was a level 4 assistance dog set up to live with a handicapped person," Lynn said. "She has real bad separation anxiety though and wasn’t a very good fit for that program so they pulled her out of that one and brought her over to the arson program. Separation anxiety is actually a good thing for our program because it helps build an important dependency on the handler."

Lynn took over the handling of Glory in September last year and they’ve been hard at work ever since. Glory isn’t Beloit’s first arson dog though, the fire department originally initiated its K-9 program in the mid-’90s.

"Back in ’96 we were awarded a State Farm arson dog program grant and they sent me out to get training and acquire a dog," Lynn said. "The first dog’s name was Bo-Bo, and he worked for eight years. Then we got our next K-9, Molly, who worked until the fall of 2013, and then that’s when we acquired Glory."

Glory works alongside Lynn every day. Lynn says Labradors are selected because of their high food drive, which makes them easy to motivate.

After a fire has been put out, Lynn and Glory show up to begin the investigation. Glory works by using her powerful sense of smell to pick up any scent of accelerants, such as gas or other substances to help determine if the fire had been set deliberately.

"Glory goes through and sniffs through the debris and she’s able to detect trace evidence that’s left over from most accelerants, then we are able to collect samples and send them into the crime lab," Lynn said. "Without her, I’d have to dig for four or five days through the debris to even find trace evidence, and then I’m just taking a guess."

When she picks up a scent she gets right to work tracking it down. After honing in on some suspicious debris, Glory will alert Lynn.

"Glory is a passive alert dog that works on food rewards," Lynn said. "A passive alert is basically sitting down or barking and then pointing with her nose."

Even with such a short amount of time in service, Glory has already successfully investigated 16 different fire scenes with Lynn. Lynn and Glory do the majority of their work in Beloit and Rock County, but because Wisconsin only has two K-9 units trained in this kind of detection, it’s not uncommon for them to find themselves on a road trip.

"As the need dictates, we’ll go anywhere in Wisconsin, but I’ve been in northern Illinois and northern Minnesota as well," said Lynn.

As a supplement to Glory’s duty in the arson unit, her and Lynn spend a significant portion of time doing some public relations and spreading the word about fire crime prevention.

"A big portion is public relations too," Lynn said. "We go out a lot to schools and talk to kids. We visit with groups like Kiwanis and the Lions Club as well. It’s a big public relations tool in addition to fighting the crime of arson."

Unlike most K-9 enrolled in civic duties, Glory and other arson dogs like her are able to be a big part of their handler’s personal lives. Glory lives at Lynn’s home in the town of Magnolia with Lynn, his wife, Shawn and their five kids.

"When you hear about police officers having a partner and how they keep each other going and they have each other’s back it’s almost that type of a relationship," said Shawn of her husband’s relationship with Glory. "They depend on each other. She knows when someone is having a bad or good day."

And if you ask Lynn, Glory’s heroism truly lies in her empathy. 

"One of the reasons she was nominated for the hero dog is that she went through this assistance program and developed this knack for picking up on when someone isn’t feeling good," Lynn said. "In the fire service and law enforcement we see a lot of things that many normal people would find it difficult to handle.

"Seeing this kind of stuff does affect you emotionally and what I’ve found about Glory is that in the station she picks out those people that are having a rough day and she goes over and just spends some time with them and kind of relieves some of their stress -- that makes her a hero dog to me."

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