Campers visit with bomb-sniffing K-9

Deputy David Lawrence and bomb-sniffing K-9 Tori visited with Prepared, Not Scared campers at Oak Mountain State Park on July 8. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Deputy David Lawrence and bomb-sniffing K-9 Tori visited with Prepared, Not Scared campers at Oak Mountain State Park on July 8. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Every day, campers at Fresh Air Family’s safety-focused Prepared, Not Scared day camp, hosted in Oak Mountain State Park, get visited by a school resource officer from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. On July 8, campers were treated to a visit from Deputy David Lawrence and his K-9 companion Tori.

“They (the officers) all talk about safety, they help these kids stay safe in any situation,” Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Air Family Verna Gates said. “This is her (Tori’s) third round with us. Tori is very popular.”

Campers got to pet Tori while Lawrence explained the training and duties of K-9 dogs.

At first glance, Tori looks like any other dog playing with the Prepared, Not Scared campers. But Tori is much more than just any dog, she is specially trained to “sniff out explosives,” including bombs, ammunition and bullets, Lawrence explained.

Tori works with the Sheriff’s Office to find explosives in schools. Lawrence said she is called in during any sort of bomb or shooting threat to assist officers in searching for explosives.

“With her, it (searching) is a lot quicker,” Lawrence said.

Before her position in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, the six-year-old Labrador served one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan as a United States Military bomb-sniffing dog.

“Bomb dogs… come in all shapes and sizes,” Lawrence said, explaining they are selected for “certain traits,” such as an energetic, inquisitive and friendly nature. “A lot of times they start training at eight months old… it depends on the dog,” he added.

“We have six dogs on our team,” Lawrence told campers, some are used for tracking, some are used to find explosives and others specialize in finding narcotics. The dogs also respond to commands in other languages, such as German, but Lawrence said Tori responds to English commands.

Although a highly trained military veteran, Lawrence said Tori enjoys attention, playing with toys and treats just like any other dog, and when not on duty, she lives with Lawrence and his family.

“Tori loves treats, she loves bacon strips,” Lawrence said. “She’s a really laid back dog, we matched up real good.”