It's not easy to get chosen to go to the CIA's exclusive explosive detection school. Puppies and young dogs have to be willing to go inside, under and around cars and other objects. They have to gladly stick their noses in cans to get a piece of kibble, and they need have an extremely high food drive. They have to be very curious and certainly can't be afraid of new things.
In fall 2017, six Labrador retrievers made the cut for the first all-female CIA puppy class. One of those pups was Lulu, a 1 1/2-year-old black Lab, who was the smallest dog in the group. Lulu was being trained by the CIA for the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia.
In her official CIA bio, Lulu is described as, "hyper and silly when she plays, but has an easygoing sweetness and is extremely sensitive to her surroundings and what is being asked of her."
Well, maybe not that last part.
A not-so-great student
In the beginning, Lulu worked alongside her fellow four-legged trainees, learning to sniff on command.
They trained in "the booth" — a small area with a wall of cinder blocks, where trainers hide small tins filled with odors for the dogs to find.
Training moves fast, according to the CIA's blog. "In less than six weeks, the pups will be able to successfully detect more than 20,000 different explosive mixtures!"
But Lulu wasn't feeling it. She began to show signs that she just wasn't interested in detecting explosive odors, reports the CIA.
"All dogs, just like most human students, have good days and bad days when learning something new. The same is true during our puppy classes. A pup might begin acting lazy, guessing where the odors are, or just showing a general disregard for whatever is being taught at the moment. Usually it lasts for a day, maybe two."
The thrill is gone
The trainers tried to figure out what was behind Lulu's disinterest. Was she bored and needed a break? Did she have a medical issue? Often trainers can work through minor problems and the dogs are back after a few days, happily ready to continue training.
But not Lulu.
Even when her trainers could motivate her with food, it was obvious she wasn't enjoying the job.
"Our trainers’ top concern is the physical and mental well-being of our dogs, so they made the extremely difficult decision to do what’s best for Lulu and drop her from the program," the agency announced.
The good news for Lulu is that she was adopted by her handler. She now spends her days sniffing out squirrels and rabbits in his backyard, while playing with his children and her new canine pal, Harry.
And don't worry, Lulu, the CIA has no hard feelings.
"We’ll miss Lulu, but this was the right decision for her. We wish her all the best in her new life."