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Top dogs of DCA grace pages of TSA’s 2023 Canine Calendar

Two dogs with the ruff job of sniffing out danger at Reagan National Airport are in the limelight.

Ava and Messi — the pair of pooches prowling DCA for smelly signs of explosives — are among the dozen good boys and girls featured in a free, downloadable 2023 monthly calendar from the Transportation Security Administration. It features dashing photos of these daring dogs accompanied by facts about them.

“Ava and Messi both want the title of most loveable buttercup at DCA,” the calendar says.

Messi, a 6-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, is February’s fetching featured dog.

“He was clearly born to work for TSA because he enjoys watching airplanes and playing in the grass at nearby Gravelly Point,” says TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “Messi is a lovable and hard-working dog who enjoys playing with a tennis ball after work.”

He provides explosives detection support in aircraft, cargo facilities, vehicles and buildings, according to the calendar.

Ava, a four-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer whose puppy-dog expression “melts everyone’s hearts,” graces the June calendar pages.

“Ava enjoys spending time outdoors and favors a bright yellow tennis ball as her toy of choice,” Farbstein said. “She also likes to buck like a rodeo horse and prance through the airport.”

Ava and Messi and their humans are among more than 1,000 canine handler teams to support security and screening operations in airports across the nation. Every year, about 300 dogs complete a 16-week training course in San Antonio, Texas, where they get to know their handlers, adapt to busy airports and learn how to sniff out a variety of explosive odors.

These dogs are as good at their jobs as they are cute, according to Farbstein.

“They are so effective at their jobs that other public and private sector law enforcement agencies often request their support for similar security missions,” Farbstein said.

But the most precious dog of all is Eebbers, formerly of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The agency’s oldest dog retired this summer with the exceedingly important distinction of winning TSA’s “2022 Cutest Canine Contest.”

In a picture from his retirement party, included in the calendar, Eebbers sniffs a personal cake shaped like a cartoon bomb, positioned next to a cake shaped like a suspicious package.

An explosives detection dog sniffs a birthday cake shaped like a bomb (via TSA)

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Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.

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