Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Services Department’s newest recruit is a four-footed workaholic — a trait he may have picked up after four tours of duty in Afghanistan, according to his partner.
“This dog, he’s always ready to work. He loves to work. He’s always like, ‘When are we going to work?’” said Jamieson Scarlata of Mechanicsville, handler for the six-year-old Labrador retriever named Shaggy. “He’s a great addition to the Fire and EMS Department.”
Shaggy was trained to detect explosives at K2 Solutions Inc., a North Carolina-based company specializing in training dogs for detection purposes, said Fire/EMS spokesman Mark Brady.
Brady said Shaggy was used to detect explosives in suspicious vehicles, buildings or open terrain even under enemy fire, so the explosives could be neutralized by bomb technicians or other military personnel.
Shaggy served with the United States Marine Corps from 2010 to 2013, Scarlata said. When his military service finished, Shaggy and other dogs were returned to K2, which continued their explosives training and made them available to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Scarlata, a 10-year veteran with the department, is an acting lieutenant and fire investigator, who has served the department in a number of capacities.
Fire investigators assigned to the Office of the Fire Marshal are experienced firefighters who are also certified police officers, Brady said. They have powers of arrest and are primarily responsible for investigating arson and explosives in the county. The department is also responsible for operation of the county’s bomb squad.
Scarlata and Shaggy just completed an eight-week basic explosive ordinance detection class with the Prince George’s Police Department’s K9 unit on May 30.
“We’ll be at special events at Fed Ex Field and elsewhere, to have a presence and to sweep vehicles and such to make sure there are no explosives, as well as respond to bomb threats,” Scarlata said.
Shaggy joins two other canines in the department, an explosive detection canine named Tango and Jetson, a Labrador retriever trained in accelerant detection, but Scarlata said Shaggy’s military training makes him stand out.
“The cool thing about Shaggy is you can send him out 200, 300 yards to check things out,” Scarlata said. Most canines need a handler nearby, but Shaggy is able to work independently, Scarlata said.
“I can send him out to sweep all of the cars without me being there, or set him on a large building,” Scarlata said. “The handler doesn’t have to get as close to a place that might explode.”
Shaggy lives with Scarlata and his family, but Scarlata said Shaggy finds it hard to go off-duty.
“For the first couple weeks he continually searched my house for explosives. He’s had to adapt to non-military life,” Scarlata said. “Still, I’d rather have him be more amped up and want to work than have a lazy dog.”
Deputy Fire Chief Scott Hoglander said the pair are an asset to the department.
“The addition and K-9 Shaggy and Handler Scarlata adds an additional resource to the Office of the Fire Marshal,” Hoglander said. “The department could not have received a better K-9 that has such an impressive background in detection of explosives.”