Lee Road Elementary School students and staff gathered in the school's gymnasium on May 16 to explore the careers of canine officers Washa Bachturidze, Anthony Moreno and Thomas Salvati. The officers serve in the U.S. Canine Border Patrol unit out of John F. Kennedy airport with trained dogs that help detect dangerous travelers, contraband and agricultural irregularities.
With a line of boxes and suitcases strategically placed on the gymnasium floor to resemble an airport security check point, officer Bachturidze introduced his dog Bernie. Bernie is a beagle mix breed that helps find agricultural irregularities that individuals try to bring into the country. The students watched as Bernie used his senses to find packaged food hidden in one of the boxes. Officer Bachturidze then spoke about how Bernie gets rewarded with treats.
Officer Salvati taught students about the schooling involved for officers interested in joining the Canine Border Patrol for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He also discussed the training process for both the dogs and their officer. Using officer Moreno's dog Alex, a German shepherd mix, the students watched as the two ran up and down the line of bags while Alex used his senses to search for placebo narcotics. Once he successfully found the correct bag, officer Salvati rewarded him with a toy and the students cheered.
Throughout the assembly, the officers encouraged the students to ask questions and spoke about the different dog breeds that work within the U.S. Homeland Security Department. The students also learned why certain dog breeds are beneficial for their roles in safety.