Latest Working Dog Center grads embark on new careers

A new crop of graduates from the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Working Dog Center (WDC) is entering the workforce, benefiting society with their special skills and, especially, their highly tuned noses.

Last week, Quest and Logan, both German shepherds, became part of the SEPTA Police’s K9 unit. They followed in the footsteps of WDC alumni Ronnie and Kaiserin, who joined SEPTA’s police force one year ago.

“We’re really proud that SEPTA again turned to our dogs to be part of their team,” says Cindy Otto, director of the WDC. “Talk about a stamp of approval.”

Felony, a Dutch shepherd, also left the Center last week for her first job, but with a considerably longer commute. She joined the New Mexico Task Force, an urban search and rescue team that responds to disasters by helping locate and extract people trapped in collapsed structures or confined areas. Dogs are critical partners in these efforts, helping sniff out and alerting their handlers to exactly where victims are located.

Two other WDC alums will be staying close to home; two WDC employees are purchasing them and will become the dogs’ handlers.

“We sometimes get permanently attached to the dogs,” Otto laughs.

Jake, a yellow Labrador retriever, will continue to live with Donna Magness, who has been fostering him. Together, they hope to join the New Jersey Task Force, an urban search and rescue organization. And Pacy, a black Lab, will serve as WDC Training Manager Pat Kaynaroglu’s human remains detection dog. The WDC will maintain part ownership of Pacy, with plans to eventually breed her.

Finally, Pinto, one of the nine puppies born to yellow Lab Zzisa last year, has excelled so significantly in her training that she will become a breeding female at Dogworks Kennel, the breeder that donated Morgan, one of the WDC’s first puppies. The breeder also plans to have Pinto work as a human remains detection dog.

Even after the canines graduate, the WDC tracks their progress with annual behavior and performance reports from the organizations that purchase them. The information will help Otto and her colleagues assess what factors go into breeding and training successful working dogs. In addition, the Center keeps sperm samples from the male dogs so that future generations might benefit from their excellent genetics.

While Otto says it’s always hard to see the dogs go, all of these departures also allow the Center to embark on new ventures.

“It’s important, both for us and the dogs, to see them go into their careers,” she says. “And this frees up space so we can bring in some new puppies and begin breeding our females.”

Working Dog Center