WASHINGTON — Let’s just get this out of the way: There are other matters of consequence going on in the world.
But in these fractious times, a series of puppy photos sent by none other than the fun-loving scamps at the Central Intelligence Agency qualifies as a feel-good, stick-it-to-the-man moment, shared by thousands of people who are marooned in office jobs. Meet Lulu, the black Labrador retriever and free spirit who bucked expectations and flunked out of the CIA’s explosive detection “puppy class.”
Maybe it was her shiny coat that caught the internet’s attention. Maybe it was her soft brown eyes. Or maybe her story sounds familiar to any American who has experienced workplace ennui: She underwent rigorous training for a daily grind job and decided that sniffing out bombs was not her calling. (And who actually wants that job, anyway?)
The photos were a rare attempt at a cutesy moment from an agency better known for much darker stories. The number of CIA personnel killed in Afghanistan now rivals the number of agency operatives who died in the wars in Vietnam and Laos. The agency has pushed for extended powers to carry out covert drone strikes in active war zones. So even the course load for its bomb dogs is high-stakes and rigorous.
“A few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors,” read a statement on the CIA website. “Usually it lasts for a day, maybe two.”
Because dogs can detect about 19,000 explosive scents, the CIA’s prospective bomb sniffers face a six-week, seven-days-a-week training course in which they learn to identify threats. The dogs then undergo one-on-one training for 10 weeks with their handlers.
A successful graduate learns how to detect explosives in cars and luggage. The 60-hour canine workweek — part of a career that typically lasts seven or eight years — can include shifts with the U.S. Park Police, local police departments and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On Thursday, the CIA (barely) relaxed its typically tight-lipped stance to relay a few words about its infamous dropout. Lulu, the agency wrote, was a year and a half old, was the smallest of six dogs in her class and was being trained for the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia.
Although a life of intrigue was not in Lulu’s professional future, she was still afforded the sort of professional courtesy that most two-legged members of society can only dream about. A “doggy psychologist” was brought in to assess the situation. Extra breaks, treats and rest were provided.
“There are a million reasons why a dog has a bad day,” the CIA wrote on Twitter. But in the end, Lulu “was clearly no longer enjoying herself.”
This was not the life plan she had envisioned for herself, and this is fine.
In any case, Lulu soon had a new home: She was adopted by her handler and now spends her unemployment “sniffing out rabbits” and hanging out with another dog named Harry. (No word on his professional background.)
Officials at the CIA wished this very good dog all the best in the future.