WASHINGTON >> Let’s just get this out of the way: There are other matters of consequence going on in the world.
But in these fractious times, a series of puppy photos posted by none other than the fun-loving Central Intelligence Agency can now qualify as a feel-good, stick-it-to-the-man moment shared by thousands of people who are marooned in office jobs. Meet Lulu, the black Labrador retriever and free spirit who bucked expectations and flunked out of the CIA’s explosive detection “puppy class.”
Maybe it was her shiny coat that made Lulu’s story ricochet around the internet. Maybe it was her soft brown eyes. Or maybe her story just sounds familiar to any American who has experienced workplace ennui: She underwent rigorous training for a daily grind job and decided that sniffing out bombs was not her calling. (And who actually wants that job, anyway?)
The photos were a rare attempt at a cutesy moment from a secretive agency better known for much darker stories. The number of CIA personnel killed in Afghanistan now rivals the number of agency operatives who died in the wars in Vietnam and Laos decades ago. The agency has pushed for extended powers to carry out covert drone strikes in active war zones. And even the courseload for its bomb dogs is high-stakes and rigorous.
“A few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors,” read a statement on the CIA website. “Usually it lasts for a day, maybe two.”
Because canines can detect about 19,000 explosive scents, the CIA’s prospective bomb dogs face a six-week training course in which they learn to sniff out threats. After meeting their handlers, the dogs then undergo a 10-week one-on-one training. A successful graduate learns how to detect explosives in cars and luggage. The 60-hour canine workweek can include shifts with the U.S. Park Police, local police departments and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
It quickly became clear that bomb-sniffing was not in Lulu’s professional future. Still, she was afforded the sort of professional courtesy that most two-legged members of society can only dream about from their human resources departments.
A “doggy psychologist” was brought in to assess the situation. Extra breaks, treats and rest were provided.
This was clearly not the life plan Lulu had envisioned for herself, and this is fine.
“For some dogs, after weeks of working w them, it’s clear the issue isn’t temporary & instead, this just isn’t the job they are meant for,” the CIA said in a Twitter post on Oct. 18.
Lulu soon had a new home.
“Lulu was adopted by her handler & now enjoys her days playing (with) his kids & a new friend, & sniffing out rabbits & squirrels in the backyard,” the CIA tweeted.
When it came to fielding questions about Lulu’s professional background, the agency stayed typically tight-lipped. But officials did say they wish this very good dog all the best in the future.