KEN FRANKLIN, the new bomb-sniffing K-9 "barkranger" at Independence National Historical Park, wears a vest thatsays "Police," not a tricorne and specs. While part of his job ispublic relations (including a Twitter hash tag, #barkranger, where hemixes it up with a colonial squirrel named Skuggs), he's all businesswhen the vest is on.
Daily News reporter John Moritzinterviewed Ken's handler, Park Ranger Nick Iannelli, while Ken satnearby, both fresh off an assignment to sniff out potential threatsduring a visit by President Clinton late last month.
Ken is a German-born German shepherd who came to Philly by way of abreeder in Kansas City, Mo. He was midway through his bomb-sniffingtraining when the Boston Marathon bombers struck. Iannelli is a localguy who came to his current job by way of a two-year park ranger stintat Alaska's Kenai Fjords.
When they're not policing the historic district together, Ken liveswith Iannelli and his wife in Society Hill.
Q Do you call him Ken, or Franklin?
Ken. That was his original name in Germany. We added Franklin.
Q As a team, what is your training?
I went through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center inGeorgia. And then once I got Ken we went through a 10-week course withthe Philadelphia Police Department.
He is trained on a real wide variety of explosives, but what heactually picks up on are the components, like nitrogen and stuff likethat. He'll pick up pretty much any mixture or variation of explosivethat somebody could make up.
Q Describe your typical day.
I try to get him out as much as possible to let him be seen as avisual deterrent. We look for things out of the ordinary, like bagsleft in places there wouldn't normally be a bag left. He also doesscreening for events, checking the area to make sure nobody stashesanything anywhere.
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are national treasures, sothere is a little bit more of a threat here than there would be in someother parts of the city. The Philadelphia Police Department, obviously,has a bunch of explosives canines as well.
I also try to get him out for breaks with his vest off and let kidscome and pet him, and they seem to love that. He's good with kids. He'ssuper friendly. He's a great diplomat.
Q Any unforeseen challenges?
I guess the biggest one would be the heat. I try not to keep him outfor too long before I put him back in a vehicle with airconditioning.
Even having dogs on the blacktop for too long, their pads can getburned and blister. I try to keep him either on the grass or in placesthat are shaded and to walk across the street as quick as we can andget him to where he is not going to burn his feet.
Q Does Ken ever get distracted?
If we're out walking around, I may have to give him a little tug andsay, 'Come on, Ken.' But when you give him his work command, he's verygood about that.
Today, actually, we were doing a search in a room, and the room wasbeing used by a group. They were on break, but there was still quite afew people in there and while he was going around he ran intosomeone.
He was searching, and there was a guy standing there, and he wentright up to the guy's leg and just looked at him and waited for him tomove.
I had to ask the gentleman to move, and he said, 'Oh sorry' andmoved. Ken continued. Once you give him his work command, he zerosin.
Q Does he ever chase the squirrels around thepark?
Yeah, when he's out and he's off his leash he definitely gets it upa tree pretty quick.
Q How do you prepare for an event like a visit by aformer U.S. president?
The great thing about Ken being a dog is, there's no mental aspectof it. Whether he is working for President Clinton or he's justpracticing, it is the same for him.
We worked under the the Secret Service's command. They directed usto areas they wanted swept, and we went through and checked them all.Everything was all right.