When Officer Martin completes a long shift patrolling the airport with his partner Officer Dan Pigage, he loves nothing more than to head to Dan’s house, let loose and explore the backyard. That’s because Officer Martin is one of RDU’s two new K-9 officers now working to keep you safe as you travel.
Our Police K-9 program is rebooting after a two year absence due to the retirement of the previous K-9 officers and changes in duties for their handlers. Martin and our other new K-9, Zulu, are trained to detect explosive materials. You’ll see them responding to calls about unattended items and checking trash cans and other items throughout the terminals.
Martin and Zulu are handled by Officer Pigage and Officer James Johnson who applied for the position from the department’s 27 full-time officers. Both K-9 teams seldom work together in order for there to be a K-9 on duty as much as possible. After several months of intensive on-site training, Martin and Zulu are now on duty full-time.
Becoming a K-9 handler requires more than just training. The officers become the caretakers for both canines. When off-duty, the K-9s reside at the handlers’ homes. If they get sick, the (human) officer takes his K-9 partner to the vet and so forth.
One of the biggest questions from customers is: can the dogs can be petted? The answer is: sometimes. But always ask the (human) officer first. The K-9 teams also provide demonstrations for tour groups and assist other local agencies when needed.
Meet Officer Martin
Age: 2 years
Weight: 72 pounds
Handler: Dan Pigage
Breed: Dutch Shepherd
Expected Years of Service: 9-10
Trivia: Martin was named in honor of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who tragically lost his life in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Meet Officer Zulu
Age: 2 years
Weight: 58 pounds
Handler: James Johnson
Breed: Yellow Lab Mix
Expected Years of Service: 8-10
Trivia: Zulu was named for Taxiway Zulu here at the airport.
Interesting Fact: She loves to have her belly scratched. (After asking her handler, of course.)