Chris Byrne is the owner of Stonehill Kennel LLC in Litchfield County, Connecticut. To say that Chris is a dog Trainer, is an understatement. His credentials read like a Who's Who in the Dog Training world:
Pet and companion animal training, Schutzhund I, II, III, Advanced Obedience, Advanced Tracking, Advanced Protection, Narcotics detection, Explosives detection, A.K.C. conformation, Agility, Assistance dogs, Entertainment dogs, Trick dogs, Cadaver Recovery dogs, Therapy dogs, Service Dogs, Guard dogs, Military Working dogs and Police and Security dogs.
He's an internationally published author of Dog Training and Bomb Detection articles in the USA and Europe. He's been interviewed by National and Foreign News agenices on the use of Detection Dogs and is a frequent guest speaker on talk radio on the subjects of Dog Training and Homeland Security. Remember that Bulldog mascot in the WWF? Yup, that's one of Chris's students. You may have seen other students of his in music videos, television commercials and print ads.
I thought today, we would take a glimpse into what it was like for the Dog Handlers who worked right after 9-11 at the WTC site and surrounding areas. Thanks Chris - you and your team did some fine work. Here's also to your guy Ray, who did his job so valiantly.
1. Chris, how did you become involved with NYC K9 organization?
I was providing the Bomb detection dog teams to the Empire State Building when 9-11 changed all our lives.
Within a few days FEMA contacted someone at the Pentagon for a recommendation on a reputable Bomb Dog vendor (I had been a vendor for the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program and had some contacts with several branches of the military). That got us the jobs at all the Support sites for the WTC recovery mission and within a few days we also were protecting Federal Plaza and 9 other locations throughout the city of New York.
In the first few days following the disaster, the NYPD was running ragged and short on their own resources. We performed about 80 emergency responses with the NYPD to bomb threats in the first three weeks following 9-11. We did sweeps at Embassies, museums, the NY library, several transportation centers, news outlets and other landmarks throughout the city. We worked daily with the NYPD, Emergency Services, NYC Office of Emergency Management, NYPD Bomb Unit, NYFD, The New York State Police, Federal Protective Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Our invitation to bid on the newly re-formed NYPD Transit K-9 Unit and Emergency Services K-9 Unit in 2005 was just like every other name in the hat. We put in a fair bid price and they found our proposal to be most advantageous to the City of New York.
Nearly half of the current dogs with the NYPD have come from my kennels.
2. How many of your dogs were involved in the 9-11 operation?
We had about 14 dogs working double shifts everyday of the week. These were Bomb Detection Dog Teams only. We did not have enough of our own dogs to protect all of the sites , so I sub-contracted some of the work out to some friends in the business from Texas (www.k9gta.com), and Kentucky (Ron Moser of DDK9S). This allowed us to properly protect our areas of responsibility with certified dog teams of the highest quality. Many dozens of other dogs from all corners of the country came in with their handlers to work in the Search and Rescue effort at ground zero. The management had closed the observation deck and other attractions at the Empire State building as a precaution. With my connections there, I made arrangements so that anyone with World Trade Center Recovery credentials could get a free tour of the observation deck in the evenings. It was a great way for these rescuers to get away from their daunting and unrewarding job at hand.
3. How many years does the average "professional" dog work?
Depending on many factors like breed, genetics, nutrition, environment, etc, a working dogs life can be anywhere from 8-11 years of age. While many agencies will retire their dogs young, after only 3 or 4 years of work, most dogs don’t reach their prime until 7 or 8 years of age. It is well known that most working dogs will go down hill shortly after they are retired. Dogs love to work and live to please their owner/ handler. The best time to retire a dog is when they can no longer effectively perform their duties. To do so earlier is a waste of time, money and a great animal.
4. What happens to them when they retire?
Most agencies have a system in place to give the handler the first option to keep the dog and in most cases that is what happens. In my case as a private contractor, we keep them working or retire them and adopt them out. Only two of our dogs from the World trade Center Recovery Mission are still alive, and both of them are living great lives with their new owners. I lost my personal Bomb Dog, Ray, this past June. He is buried here at our facility and we are having a marker stone made up for him this spring.
5. Chris, did you ever have a dog die on the job?
We have had dogs get injured while working, never lost a dog to injury or illness. As part of our certification course that each dog handler must take, our handlers are trained in basic and some advanced first aid and lifesaving skills. Preventive medicine, daily inspections and good sanitation skills will keep dogs healthy and help avoid most unnecessary illness and injuries.
My husband and I are proud to also know Chris as a dear friend and I can tell you from experience, that having a working relationship with your K9 pals reaps untold benefits; both for us and for our dogs. Perhaps if everyone is interested, I can convince Chris to help me with some more articles about training methods, and beneficial workouts with your pets. Here's a snap of our two pals, Scout and Cap. Thanks everyone for reading - remember - a tired dog is a happy owner. Work your dogs to their highest potentials; they will respect you and perform anything you ask of them - just spend the time and do it !