A Queenstown aviation security officer and his dog from Dunedin have taken the country’s top prize for sniffing out bombs.
At the national police and detector dogs championships, Aviation Security explosive detector dog handler Amon Nepe and his English springer-spaniel, Travis, won the Aviation Security shield for the most outstanding team in the explosives detector dog category.
The three-day competition started on September 12 at Trentham military camp and pitted Mr Nepe and Travis against another team from the Aviation Security Service (Avsec), and two teams from the defence force.
The win had been very exciting and was an honour, MrNepe said.
It had come as a big surprise, because the judges gave no feedback during the competition, which was set up to mimic real world scenarios.
‘‘The thing for me is that you do down there what you do at work — you don’t change it just because it’s the nationals,’’ Mr Nepe said.
Actions were scored and whoever had the most points at the end won.
It was the first time for both Mr Nepe and Travis to be selected for the national competition and the duo had been working together for only about a year.
Travis was originally a pet dog in Dunedin, but was so energetic and driven that his owners could not keep him occupied.
‘‘Word got around, then someone got in touch with us asking if we wanted to have a look at him . . . the rest is history,’’ Mr Nepe said.
Handlers were looking for dogs who were highly driven and would not shift their focus when someone walked past with a toy.
Travis had ticked all the boxes and more.
‘‘He’s one out the box, this little fella,’’ Mr Nepe said.
Mr Nepe has worked as a dog handler for Avsec for about 16 years and had started off in Auckland.
Before that he had served in the navy and had always been interested in any type of working dogs.
For the past seven years he had lived in Central Otago, which was a place he loved.
‘‘You can’t beat it,’’ he said.
The career was an exciting one where no day was the same.