Talk about flying high in the friendly skies
Working dogs are fascinating to watch. Most recently, I saw a bright-eyed Beagle work the room at Vancouver International Airport’s customs arrival area. The female agent and her sprightly canine partner barely broke eye contact with each other as they made their way down the row of bags. They communicated in their secret language, bonded by teamwork and a common goal.
I stationed myself beside another customs officer to find out more. He told me that this Beagle wasn’t a drug dog. He was sniffing out contraband food, and did a bang-up job at it.
In the spirit of the holiday travel season, I thought I’d bring you a story that might give you pause (or is it paws?) as you make your way home from American Thanksgiving festivities.
It reveals that it’s not necessarily the drug dogs you should be nervous about at the airport.
This past May, customs officers at Narita airport in Japan decided to help their canine partners bone up on sniffing skills by planting a metal container containing 124 grams of hashish on an innocent passenger. They stuffed it into a soft black suitcase belonging to one of the 283 people inbound on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong.
The training technique, which passengers aren’t informed about, is technically banned. But customs officers admit it is common practice.
We all know what it’s like to have a bad day on the job.
"The dog couldn’t find it and the officer [then] forgot which bag he put it into," a spokeswoman told journalists in Tokyo. "If by some chance passengers find it in their suitcase, we’re asking them to return it."
The cannabis was valued at $10,000 in Japan, a country that has among the strictest anti-narcotics laws in Asia.
“It’s extremely regrettable that we have invited this sort of situation on ourselves. We will investigate the facts behind the case, provide thorough training and deal strictly with those involved,” said Manpei Tanaka, the head of Customs’ Narita branch.
Eventually police tracked down the unsuspecting passenger mule staying at a hotel in Tokyo. They got the drugs back, but there’s no word on what happened to the dog whose nose hadn’t cut the muster.
I hope he’s not in the doghouse.