Playful Lab Failed as Guide Dog, Masters Bomb Detection

Playful Lab Failed as Guide Dog, Masters Bomb Detection

Handler John Stellato and Derry make the rounds at the 9/11 Memorial. (Amy Dreher photo)

Derry has a nose for trouble. 

The yellow Labrador retriever uses his sniffer to scan for explosives at office buildings across New York City. Derry is also assigned to the World Trade Center site, where he is helping to keep the 9/11 Memorial safe.

Derry’s job as an explosive detection canine, or more commonly known as a bomb-sniffing dog, excited his former owner, Jared Feingold, 13, of Manhattan.

“It’s really cool,” said Jared, who with his family recently visited Derry after the dog’s shift ended at the memorial. 

Jared and his family first took in Derry when he was 13 weeks old and soon began training him for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind service. But Derry failed his final test. The service found him another program for detecting explosives. Derry was a natural.

“Their loss was our gain,” said John Stellato, Derry’s handler for MSA Security. “He likes to sniff.”

That nose makes the nearly 2-year-old Derry a great partner for Stellato.  Before retiring as a sergeant after 23 years with New York City police, Stellato never had a four-legged partner or served in the K-9 unit.  

“I wish I would’ve done this a long time ago,” Stellato said. “It would have been nice working with a dog then.”

The only formidable challenger to Derry’s sense of smell is perhaps his appetite.  He has a penchant for dog biscuits, the cornerstone of his training regimen. Off site for practice, Stellato hides mock explosives to keep that snout fine-tuned. If Derry gives a positive response by sitting down by a suspicious package, Stellato awards him with his favorite treat.

The biscuits, Stellato stressed, are of the healthy variety so Derry can stay sharp.

“He’s on a strict diet. He has to maintain a certain weight so he can work,” he said.

  By Michael Frazier, Director of Communications for the 9/11 Memorial