When Mark Greenberg read the story that spread across the nation last week about Lulu the dog who dropped out of the Central Intelligence Agency’s bomb sniffing training class, he wondered who the replacement would be.
But when he checked the CIA’s website he saw a familiar face — his old pal Heron the black Labrador retriever, who is now known as Harry, the newest member of the CIA’s 2017 fall “puppy class.”
“When I saw that picture that the CIA used, I thought, ‘There’s my boy,’ ” Greenberg said.
For more than two years, Greenberg and his life-partner Cathy Taylor have been volunteer raisers for Susquehanna Service Dogs of Grantville, a division of Keystone Human Services. During that time, they’ve raised three service dogs in their State College home.
A puppy that is raised in the volunteer program enters the raiser’s home at around 8 weeks old and for just more than one year, the dog receives specialized training, and lots of love, with the goal of becoming a service dog to assist children and adults with disabilities.
The raisers foster and prepare the dog for its one-year evaluation, which is when the temperament, intelligence and skills of the dog are assessed and it is either entered in advanced training or put up for adoption.
The couple adopted their dog Rachel after she went through the program, and when Heron came to their home she was about 2 years old. The two dogs developed a special friendship, which made raising Heron a little easier, Greenberg said.
“She was set in her ways a little and here came this rambunctious puppy and I think he drove her nuts sometimes,” Greenberg said. “But they played and got along so well and it was fun to be around the two them.”
As Heron’s time with his foster family was coming to an end and he was approaching his evaluation, Greenburg dropped him off at SSD’s headquarters. It was the last time he saw his pal.
“It all happened so fast,” Greenberg said. “When Lulu didn’t quite make it, they went back to SSD and they met Heron and they said, ‘This is the dog we want to work with.’ ”
On Oct. 19, the CIA posted the news that they had found Lulu’s replacement and Heron was introduced to the world. The CIA changed his name to Harry and according to the CIA’s blog, he has begun his training, which Greenberg thinks will be a success.
“He was very easy to train, but he certainly had a mind of his own and he was very inquisitive,” Greenberg said. “I know that’s a big piece of what the CIA looks for, in addition to the energy and intelligence. He’s really got it all.”
The CIA has created a specific page on its website where updates on the progress of Harry and the rest of the fall 2017 puppy class can be followed. Greenberg said he’ll keep an eye on the dog that has become a source of pride for he and Taylor.
“It is a great honor for Cathy and I to know that some of the work that we have done has put Heron in a position to possibly one day save people,” Greenberg said. “They couldn’t have picked a better dog.”