Name: K-9 “Wesley”
Agency: City of Yakima Fire Department, Yakima, WA
Discipline: Single Purpose Accelerant Detection
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Date of Birth: May 29th, 2002
End Of Watch: September 20th, 2016
Formal Schooling and Certifications: K-9 Wesley training included 6 weeks of initial accelerant detection training at The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Canine Academy in Front Royal Virginia. He was then placed with his handler Jennifer Norton and the two continued as a team for an additional 5 weeks of training. They graduated the academy in December of 2004 as a Certified Accelerant Detection Team, one of 57 in the nation and the only team in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, in order to maintain their certification, they attended a re-certification conference where they were tested for proficiency by an ATF chemist.
Career Stats: K-9 Wesley had over 200 deployments in his career including several ATF National Response Team (NRT) deployments working as a member of an elite investigation team in different states across the nation.
K-9 Wesley started his life and career with The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the country. He lived with a “puppy raiser” family in New Jersey for the first year of his life where he was acclimated to as many things as possible. He then began school to become a guide dog for a seeing impaired individual. He went through an additional year and a half of training before he was released. It is believed he was near graduation, but could not overcome his drive for something (most likely food or swimming). As a side note, only 1 out of 10 dogs make it through the entire program to become guide dogs.
Seeing his drive, US Customs quickly adopted him and started training him to be a “contraband dog”. These are the canines you see walking the conveyor belts at airports and the like. These dogs are looking for things that are not legal to transport into the US without being declared (fruit, plants, etc.). Wesley was too mellow to do the aggressive alert they required, digging at the source, so he was released from this program. Just down the road from the custom’s canine academy was the ATF academy. This is where Wesley ended up. With the drive to work for food and the mellowness to not disturb a possible crime scene’s evidence, Wesley became a very skilled Accelerant Detection Canine. Wesley and Jennifer worked for seven years for the Yakima Fire Department. During those years, they were together nearly 24/7. Wesley went to work and lived at home with Jennifer.
They were deployed regularly all over Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, assisting agencies with locating possible ignitable liquid evidence at fire scenes. They travelled the nation for NRT activations as needed. They also attended many community events, and regularly gave presentations to schools and local organizations. ATF has a mandatory retirement age of 10 years old, so on May 29, 2012 Wesley retired from service. He had no problem transitioning into the retired life, where food and swimming became his favorite activities. Sadly, Wesley passed away in 2016 and Project K-9 Hero was honored to pay for his end of duty services, cremation, and present Jennifer with a scorched wooden portrait of him so that she may always remember her K-9 Hero.