The bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh had the whole area on edge for months.
Although no bombs were ever found, the ever-constant fear of the explosives was enough to make everyone nervous.
“Unfortunately, these kind of threats and fears are getting more and more common,” said Chris Connolly, co-founder and co-owner of Bomb Dog International, LLC based in Coraopolis.
A little over a year ago, Connolly and his partner, Ryan Hanes, started their company to assist other businesses, schools and organizations with combating the potential threat of bombs, narcotics, and other potentially dangerous materials.
The two met when both were wrestling coaches for Hanes, a former Marine, worked as a security consultant. Connolly is a business owner of several companies including Phoenix Design & Print Company and Chris Connolly & Associates, a real-estate company. Both are located in Coraopolis.
Hanes had worked as a military police officer while in the service and had worked with both drug and bomb dogs.
“After September 11th, things changed. Instead of having 11 drug dogs to four bomb dogs, it was now 11 bomb dogs to four drug dogs,” said Hanes.
When he left the Marines after a four-year stint, he worked in security, often traveling overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. After a few years of travel, Hanes wanted to be home more often and decided to start a business combining his security and police background with his dog handling skills.
That’s when he turned to his friend Connolly for assistance with the business side of things.
“I help with the securing of the contracts, scheduling – the internal side of things while Ryan specializes in the dog side of things,” said Connolly.
Hanes trains the dogs and oversees the actual search process. His dog, Rio, is his constant companion he said, both a “business partner” and “best friend.”
“He is a super sweet dog – very social, but very capable,” said Hanes.
According to Hanes, there isn’t a particular breed that is better than another for searching skills.
“You may find a black lab at the pound or get a pure-bred dog from Holland and they could be equally good,” he said.
He likened training a dog to teaching a child.
“Setting up a standard for the dogs is like setting a standard for kids learning long division – some get it faster than others,” he said.
With their dogs, Bomb Dog International can search areas for potential hazards on an on- going basis or for a one-time event.
“We are extremely flexible. We can be what the client needs,” said Hanes.
Although their business is relatively young, the two see the need for their services as only growing.
“It is unfortunate that we have a new reality in our world. We can’t afford to be complacent anymore,” said Connolly.