The vehicle must have been transporting a VIP; who else would be inside a stretch limo with blacked-out windows? Airport security watched the passenger leave the building with great interest. They’d prepared a little something for their guest, and now he was heading straight for it.
The John F. Kennedy International Airport is the biggest of the three airports that serve New York City. More than 90 airlines fly in and out of JFK, which dealt with an impressive 59 million people in 2017. In fact, there are just five airports in the whole of the U.S. that handle more passengers.
But JFK didn’t always go by its current moniker. When it was first opened in 1948, it was called New York International Airport. It was also referred to as Idlewild Airport until the tragic shooting of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 brought about a change in its name.
After Kennedy’s untimely death, officials rebranded Idewild Airport to honor the president’s passing. The airport has retained its JFK title, even though times have changed significantly since its name change. One of the things that’s different these days is security, of course.
As flying grew in popularity, new security risks started to become apparent. And as a result of these, in 2003 a new law enforcement agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), was set up. Not only is the organization vital in the war against terror, but it also upholds other U.S. laws.
“As the United States’ first unified border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management,” the agency’s website states. It goes on to describe its role as “a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection.” CBP currently employs in excess of 60,000 officers.
But not all of its officers are human; in fact, some of its most vital members have four legs, not two. In fact, the agency uses beagle dogs, a breed blessed with an acute sense of smell, to sniff out trouble. A customs supervisor at the airport, Jim Armstrong, spoke to Live From Prince Street about the subject on June 9, 2016.
“We chose beagles in the beginning just by their nature,” Armstrong explained. “They’re non-aggressive, they love people, they have an incredible food drive, so that all worked.” The dogs are responsible for detecting contraband entering and exiting JFK.
The dogs have their work cut out, too, as Armstrong made clear. “The average flight, if you figure this, has about 300 people on it,” he said. “Maybe they’re bringing five suitcases with each person, so you can start to do the math. That’s a lot of suitcases.”
Food is strictly policed by the CBP and their beagle assistants because some of it can actually be pretty dangerous. For example, fresh vegetables and fruit might host invasive insects that could threaten another country’s ecosystem. A further issue is the potential spread of disease.
Meat, dairy and other products of animal origin may pose a risk to the public’s health because they can contain germs. The CBP keeps a close eye on foodstuffs for this very reason. What’s more, if something such as foot and mouth disease were to enter the country, it wouldn’t just be the health of American citizens that would suffer. Livestock would also be devastated, leading to untold economical damage.
So we can see that the CBP – and its four-legged helpers – have a vital role to play. And one such helper was Jasper the beagle, who’d been handed to the CBP Beagle Brigade by the Columbia County Humane Society in Augusta, Georgia. Jasper worked alongside his human partner, agricultural specialist Amanda Tripple, at JFK Airport for five years.
“When I ask him to work, he puts 100 percent in,” Tripple told LittleThings. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner.” Jasper’s discoveries range from fruit to smuggled bushmeat. In his time, he’s even sniffed out rhino hind and a goat’s head. In total, the hound has personally prevented more than 17,000 illegal products from crossing the U.S. border.
But when he turned eight years old, Jasper was scheduled for mandatory retirement. However, before he put his paws up, JFK had a little surprise in store to thank him for all his selfless work. The treat came courtesy of LittleThings and Purina Dog Chow.
Jasper’s big thank you began when he finished his final day of work on October 5, 2016. A white stretch limousine with tinted glass waited outside JFK Airport for its special canine guest. And while the limo was an impressive touch, what lay inside was even more so.
The car’s interior was festooned with treats and toys as a show of gratitude for everything the sniffer pooch had done. Pride of place was given over to a super-comfy bed with a bone-motif rug to keep Jasper snug. A LittleThings video revealed the moment the beagle found his carful of booty.
“In order to say thank you, Purina Dog Chow gave him a limo ride to the ultimate retirement party,” read the caption on the video. At the venue, meanwhile, were plenty of Jasper’s buddies, patiently awaiting the recently retired hero’s arrival. The party house was decked out with banners and balloons, and the beagle was treated like the hero he is.
To top it all off, there was a year’s supply of dog food waiting for Jasper after his retirement shindig. But perhaps the best treat of all was yet to come. As a retiree, Jasper needed a forever home to go to, and where better than the abode of his longstanding handler?
“For the very first time,” Littlethings wrote, “[Jasper’s] partner, Amanda Tripple, welcomed him home for good.” Over the five years they’d worked together, Tripple had doted on the beagle. No doubt she couldn’t imagine life without him.
YouTube channel Quartz had something else to add to Jasper’s happy ending on its upload on October 26, 2016. “Jasper will retire to Long Island where he’ll chase squirrels instead of catching smugglers,” it informed. Now his nose will be dedicated to locating the cookie jar!