Today, Lila (Portland Fire & Rescue's Arson Dog since 2008) ate her first bowl of food since starting her career seven years ago. To help in her work, her trainer and partner Lt. Fabian Jackson has only fed her bits of food from his hand in full training mode. Today, on the eve of her ninth birthday (the age all dogs who are part of the Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosive (ATF&E) Accelerant Canine Detection Team (ACDT) Program must retire) Lila received a bowl of food from Lt. Jackson that she eagerly chowed down on in front of a bank of television cameras and colleagues from the bureau.
Lt. Jackson, a 27-year veteran with Portland Fire & Rescue, works with the investigations unit and acts as an ATF&E Task Force Officer as well. He and Lila have traveled all over the country to help sniff out accelerants and piece together the cause of fires. Today was an emotional one for Jackson as his loyal partner who has been by his side at all times for the past seven years will no longer be coming to work with him.
Lila started her career as an eight-week-old puppy training to be a guide dog for the blind in Texas. Due to her keen sense of smell and love for birds, Lila was redirected to the ACDT program. Lila arrived at the ATF&E canine training facility six weeks prior to Jackson’s arrival. Lila and Jackson spent the next six weeks learning their new craft and bonding.
Once graduated and certified, the team was called into action from as far north as Ferndale, Washington to as far south as Phoenix, Arizona with the ATF&E National Response Team (NRT). Lila has worked scenes as small as vehicle fires to as large as commercial buildings a city block long.
Lila has worked numerous fire scenes that have resulted in custodies and arson convictions throughout the states of Oregon and Washington. Lila can sniff out 30 flammable substances. When she detected something, she would sit and look at Jackson for a treat. He’d reward her with fish-flavored kibble.
One memorable conviction Lila helped with was when Portland Fire & Rescue investigators were looking to prove that the man suspected of setting a blaze at the home of his ex-girlfriend was in fact the arsonist. The suspect was violent and had threatened the homeowner. At the crime scene, there were no fingerprints and no traces of DNA. Lila picked up a trail of gasoline spread throughout the house and this evidence was used in part to convict the arsonist.
Lt. Jackson will be going to the ATF&E canine training facility to be assigned and train PF&R’s new arson dog. Lila will join Jackson and his family at home and spend her days relaxing: eating bowls of food, sniffing flowers instead of accelerants, and catching balls not arsonists. PF&R thanks Lila for her service and presented her with a new dog bed adorned with fire bureau patches.
Here's some more photos from today's event...