Eebbers and his handler Carney earned their stripes at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, which annually trains around 325 dogs for the TSA and other agencies.
After serving for almost 10 years, Eebbers, the TSA's cutest and oldest working bomb-sniffing canine, is retiring. He was the agency's most senior K9, according to NPR. Eebbers shot to fame after he won the TSA's "2022 Cutest Canine Contest" in August.
On Wednesday, his retirement party was a treat-filled send-off at his home station of Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport. At the time of his retirement, the 11-year-old vizsla-Labrador mix was the last of the TSA's Puppy Program dogs still working for the TSA. He was born into the program at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was given the name Eebbers after American Army Pvt. James Ebbers who passed away in 2002 in Djibouti, Africa, while serving with the 551st Military Police Company (based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky).
Put your paws together for @mspairport's Eebbers - winner of the @TSA's 2022 Cutest K9 Contest!— MSP Airport (@mspairport) August 26, 2022
Eebbers was born into TSA’s Puppy Program and is the last remaining canine from the Puppy Program still working daily for TSA.
Congratulations on your win, Eebers! #NationalDogDay pic.twitter.com/9iwwKG4MAD
"He stays very active every day, even during the cold Minnesota winters, and he loves swimming in any of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes in the summer," according to TSA. Eebbers assisted with security at important sporting events including two Super Bowls, the Indianapolis 500, an NCAA National Championship football game and the Special Olympics World Games, in addition to his role as an airport security canine at MSP sniffing for explosives.
Eebbers and other passenger screening dogs are taught to sniff for explosives or explosive materials among passengers, usually in security checkpoint lines, and to warn their handlers if they smell anything unusual. While they are personable, the agency notes that they are working dogs who should only be touched and fed by their handlers. They are constantly tested to ensure that they are fit for service in crowded airports. "I know that when they're out there on the checkpoint, I feel safer," Marty Robinson, TSA's federal security director for Minnesota told Star Tribune. "Our biggest threat is explosives coming through, and our canine teams are the best defense against that."
"His ability to search out his trained odors amazes me every day," said Jean Carney, Eebbers' handler and lifelong partner. According to Carney, who is also retiring, most dogs leave their high-pressure jobs when they are 7 or 8 years old because of the rigors of the work. "I want him to enjoy his last few years just being a dog," said Carney. Carney said she didn't want Eebbers to retire on a "low note", saying, "It's inevitable he was going to come to a point where he was going to start slowing down and maybe start not being as proficient as he was when he was younger," she said, according to CBS affiliate KENS 5.
Eebbers and Carney earned their stripes at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, which annually trains around 325 dogs for the TSA and other agencies. There are more than 1,000 such teams nationally, including eight at MSP, and they add a crucial layer of protection to safeguard the traveling public. Screening dogs like Eebbers is one such squad.
Carney said Eebbers grew more and more mature as he grew up. "He's gentle and polite. This is what he was bred to do." Eebbers seemed to love his job, given how excited he would be for his routine. "At 3:30 a.m. he's waiting at the stairs," ready to go to work, Carney said. Describing Eebbers when he was younger, Carney said "He was such a puppy, so tall and lanky, and he had these great big dark eyes. I thought, 'Man, this dog is going to be a handful.'"
Eebbers, a diligent bomb-sniffing dog who worked at MSP airport for 10 years, has retired.— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) September 1, 2022
In a symbolic gesture, his TSA colleagues gently removed his harness — the one that warns "Do Not Pet" — and replaced it with a regular collar and leash. Good boy. https://t.co/XdAzSSj5vY pic.twitter.com/bNFM3UnFCU
Now on their last day at the job, Eebbers and Carney got some unique surprises at the celebration. His "do not pet" vest was changed out for a regular collar and leash, enabling him to receive pet attention from his co-workers and admirers. He received medals in honor of him and Carney, as well as being showered with stuffed animals and bomb-shaped cakes.
"It was the pinnacle of what we've worked for all of these years. Just to let him be the dog that he deserves to be," Carney told KENS 5. "He's worked so hard all of these years. He's been so dedicated, and such a hard worker and the only thing he asked is [for] that toy."
So, what awaits Eebbers in his post-retirement bliss? First and foremost, Carney says, is a swim in Iowa's Lake Okoboji and a long walk with his sister Etti (who herself is retired from the FBI). There's a lot more for Eebbers and his admirers to look forward to. TSA, for example, will announce the launch of its 2023 Canine Calendar later this year, which will feature Eebbers on the cover!