K-9 Knox News You Can Use: National Odor Recognition Certification

As all Westonians know, the Owl is a huge fan of the big fluffy dog named Knox who works for the Weston Police Department alongside his human Officer Rizzitello. And we also know that Knox is a working dog so not a cuddler, but he is one impressive canine.

On March 30, Officer Rizzitello and K9 Knox successfully completed the National Odor Recognition Test (NORT) administered through the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Now of COURSE the Owl is itching to make some fun out of “odor recognition”, but it turns out that this is serious stuff and so I’m going to be good. Maybe. For a few paragraphs anyway.

The NORT (okay, hold on a second here, just one letter would make that SNORT—why does the US government lack this sense of humor? Sigh.) test is held each year to evaluate a K9 team’s ability to detect 10 fundamental explosive odors. The test is recognized by Congress as the benchmark proficiency standard for effective canine explosives detection.

According to the NORT website, the three-day competition allows participants to showcase their odor detection and teamwork skills while actively searching out and identifying a variety of explosive, accelerant and gun powder-related materials. This program also serves as an opportunity for local, state, federal and military canine teams to learn new techniques from the nation’s best teams and experts in the field. 

Why does Knox need this kind of fun? As a member community of the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) Weston’s K9 team regularly assists other area communities with protective sweeps of large events such as the Boston Marathon. In addition, K9 Knox has been called upon to assist in evidence recovery. This past summer, the team assisted Maynard Police with locating ballistic evidence related to a shooting.

The Owl caught up with Officer Rizzitello this morning to ask what was Knox’s biggest challenge in this test–was it filling in the ovals in dark enough pencil? Not using a calculator? No…this is what Officer Rizzitello had to say:

“I’d say that fine-tuning Knox’s alert/ indication when he locates an explosive odor. To the dogs, it is just a game. Find the odor, get your reward, whether it’s their toy or food. So, initially, Knox would get so excited when he would find an explosive odor, he would start biting the hide/article. As you can imagine, this is not a good habit when looking for explosives.”

If that doesn’t make you laugh, then there is nothing here for you. Fortunately, as Officer Rizzitello says, Knox is calming down now in his post-teenage K-9 years and is better at alerts than in the past. This is a relief because…ummmm…boom.

Knox in 2019, with his reward for alerting

Here’s some bonus material about NEMLEC and Weston’s membership in the organization. Being a member of NEMLEC not only allows K9 Knox to stay proficient in his patrol and explosive odor detection skills, but also provides the Town of Weston access to numerous resources and expertise beyond the department’s normal staffing.

Most recently, numerous NEMLEC personnel responded to assist with successfully locating an individual suffering a mental health crisis. These teams have also assisted in other missing persons incidents in Weston, as well as provided resources in other difficult situations requiring their assistance. This has included additional drones, K9 teams, crisis negotiators, and search and rescue personnel.

Thank you, Officer Rizzitello and K9 Knox for your constant hard work and dedication!

Oh, and good boy, Knox.

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