Avondale High School welcomes new explosive-sniffing K-9

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 8, 2021

 Elite Detection K-9 handler Lisa Zang runs K-9 Lucy through explosive-detection exercises at Avondale High School Oct. 27.

Elite Detection K-9 handler Lisa Zang runs K-9 Lucy through explosive-detection exercises at Avondale High School Oct. 27.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Zang gets explosive-sniffing K-9 Lucy ready for an Oct. 27 demonstration of her skills at Avondale High School.

Zang gets explosive-sniffing K-9 Lucy ready for an Oct. 27 demonstration of her skills at Avondale High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 For the demonstration, two sticks of dynamite were placed inside one of eight buckets on a spinning platform. Lucy had to sniff out and signal when she found the material.

For the demonstration, two sticks of dynamite were placed inside one of eight buckets on a spinning platform. Lucy had to sniff out and signal when she found the material.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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AUBURN HILLS/ROCHESTER HILLS — There’s a new staff member on the payroll at Avondale High School who may just be the “top dog” on campus.

Elite Detection K-9 Lucy — a 1 1/2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever — began her post at the high school in August.

With the help of handler Lisa Zang, Lucy reports to the high school every day school is in session, manning the entrance to welcome students, staff and visitors, all the while sniffing out guns and ammunition — a job the importance of which has recently come to the forefront following the mass shooting at Oxford High School Nov. 30.

If Lucy finds explosives, she immediately signals her handler. But so far this school year, officials say that hasn’t happened at Avondale High.

Lucy’s presence at the school this year evolved from a nearly two-year relationship between Avondale Schools and Elite Detection K-9, which has a facility under renovation directly behind the high school.

“We began as a training facility for Elite K-9, where we would have the puppies come in to get acquainted with kids during lunchtime so that the dogs could begin to feel comfortable with interactions with humans, and it progressed from that to a relationship where — after hours, when the building is empty — Elite K-9 would come in and do training in the facility,” Schwarz explained. “That evolved to having a dog of our own.”

Officials from both organizations say Avondale High School is the first school in the state to add an explosive-sniffing K-9 to its staff.

“We’re getting a lot of attention,” Schwarz said. “We have other districts that certainly have now inquired on how they can go about getting something of this nature for their high schools, primarily, so it seems to be catching on. It’s something that, from a large-scale public security perspective, is important.”

Due to an increase in global and domestic threats, Elite Detection K-9 President and CEO Greg Guidice said there is an urgent demand for high-quality, American-bred scent-detection dogs to protect the nation’s schools, hospitals, businesses and public venues. Elite Detection K-9 was founded in September 2018 specifically to breed, raise and train explosive-detection K-9s.

Guidice said he’s “very excited” about the partnership with Avondale High School.

“Lucy is here due to foresight on the part of the superintendent to keep students and faculty safe from a nefarious act that may happen,” he said. “Lucy, outside of the physical security that she provides from someone bringing in guns or ammunition, also provides comfort for the kids. She’s a great working dog, and it’s an added level of security. She can see things that we, as humans, can’t.”

Nowadays, Schwarz said, it’s important for districts to be proactive to assure the safety of its students and staff.

“Not only are we concerned about what, perhaps, a student may bring into school in a backpack, but also, what a visitor may bring in. The dog patrols the doorways, as we have visitors and kids come in. It’s a real nonchalant type of security, but yet it’s vital,” he added. “It’s a lot less intrusive than having metal detectors or wands, or things of that nature, and it also provides social-emotional support for kids as well.”

To learn more about Elite Detection K-9, visit elitedetectionk9.com, email info@elitedetectionk9.com or call (248) 218-6661.

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