Meet Blue, SacRT’s new police services employee. He has a nose for the job

December 4, 2023 General, SacRT Blog

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) this year welcomed aboard an energetic and talented rookie police K9 – with a dramatic back story that’s gone from heartbreaking to heartwarming.

His name is Blue, a two-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever. He stepped in this spring as the agency’s resident explosive devices detector on trains, at stations, and in SacRT facilities. Blue wears badge 596 around his neck, the same as his partner, Officer Ryan Chapman.

Blue and Chapman are a part of SacRT’s multifaceted safety and security team, which also includes team members who monitor the SacRT system – via camera feeds – at SacRT Security Operations Center inside a Sacramento police department facility.

Blue’s job is not to catch bad guys. It is to help SacRT make its facilities safer as part of the agency’s partnership efforts with the Federal Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration to safeguard against terrorist attacks.

So far, he’s doing great, Chapman says. “He’s the happiest dog in the world. He loves to come to work. We have such a bond. I can’t imagine being without him.”

Things could have been very different, however.

Until recently, Blue was a stray puppy in Merced County, where he was placed in an overcrowded animal shelter. He was about to be euthanized when a local rescue group, Labs 2 Love, found him. Labs 2 Love is a not for profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) all-volunteer organization dedicated to rescuing Labrador Retrievers and Labrador Retriever mixes. Donate to or adopt a pet from Labs 2 Love at labs2loverescue.org.

“No one was taking him; he was too exuberant and excited, but he’s a super neat dog, obedient and friendly,” said Karen Robles of Labs 2 Love.

Her group whisked him away, hoping to find him a home.

They did better than that. They found him a career in community service.

Just after Labs 2 Love rescued Blue, they got a call from the Sacramento Police Department. “We were looking for a new dog,” Chapman said.

Robles tested Blue’s ability to sniff hidden objects and was amazed. “You guys better get out here. This is the dog!” she told police.

After a few early tests, Blue proved to have a particular characteristic needed for bomb-sniffing dogs:

“They have to have a high ‘toy drive,’” Chapman said. “They have to be crazy about toys. Finding explosives is, to them, a game of finding a toy. It’s basically hide and seek.”

Blue passed his exams this year and got his sniffing certificate. “I was so happy,” Chapman said. “I was nervous. But he did so well.” He now works 40 hours a week alongside Chapman at SacRT.

Blue has big shoes to fill as he has taken over the role from Waverly a popular yellow lab who worked at SacRT for years before retiring in early 2023. In that sense, Blue has something in common with his partner. Chapman is following in the footsteps of his dad, who was a K9 officer for the Sacramento Police Department before him. 

Blue lives at home with Chapman and has settled into suburban life. He insists on taking victory laps around the court every time he retrieves his ball Blue’s job also involves going with Chapman to local schools to meet kids.

Not long after he got on the job, Blue showed he had solid skills. While doing a sweep, Blue detected a box that, when tested, showed evidence that it had previously contained fireworks.

When he sniffs out the odors he’s been trained to detect, Blue signals to alert Chapman by turning around to face him and then sitting. He knows he’s going to be rewarded with his toy ball.

Recently, during on-the-job refresher training downtown, Chapman placed a canister with explosive material odors under a bench at a light rail station, and another behind a trash can, then walked Blue along the light rail platform.

Blue trotted along, nose pivoting left and right, up and down, though he stopped quickly at the bench where Chapman had placed the first explosive material. Blue sat on his haunches and glanced back and forth from the hiding spot to Chapman.

“Good boy!!” Chapman said, tossing Blue’s reward – a plastic ball – in the air for Blue to leap up and snatch. Chapman gave his tail-wagging teammate a hug, then the two moved on down line, where Blue sniffed out his second explosive material, winning another quick game of catch with the ball. “He absolutely loves his ball,” Chapman says.

It’s a rich life, a life with a purpose.

Robles from Labs 2 Love is thrilled. “So many dogs are euthanized, it’s heartbreaking. I’m thrilled he had a happy ending.”

Chapman as well is thankful for his talented new partner.

“It worked out great for him, it worked out great for us, and for the public. We’re helping keep the public safe.