Ostermann was fresh out of his training academy when an armed robbery at a Walgreens put his young, wet nose to the test.
His assignment: Find the gun.
Doug Lambert, the federal special agent on the other end of the leash, was skeptical when the black Labrador pulled him into a garage and started rooting around in a pile of clothes. Inside was a bag of cash — but no gun.
Lambert, 50, had all but deemed his dog a dud when he remembered: Witnesses had said the robber pulled the gun from a bag. Ostermann must have picked up on its residue.
Lambert was impressed.
“That was like, whoa, this dog’s nose is pretty darn good,” he said.
That nose — and their partnership — would become a powerful crime-fighting tool in many of the state’s most memorable cases.
Their work together ends this month when Lambert, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, takes a civilian job.
Based out of the Denver Police Department, he will help other agencies use the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, or NIBIN, in which digital images of casings found at crime scenes are kept in a database for comparison to discover links between crimes more quickly.
That means Ostermann — named after retired New York Police Department bomb technician Glenn Ostermann — will become a house dog at age 7½; the ATF retires most of its bomb dogs at about 9 years old, but Ostermann will retire early because of the lengthy time it would take to develop a relationship with a new handler.
Ostermann is the only dog in the Denver field office who can sniff out both trace and bulk amounts of explosives, and the agency has yet to tap another canine to fill the void.
The dog’s career was short but storied.
Certified on 20 explosive odors, Ostermann proved his worth behind the scenes.
He played a role in the case of Najibullah Zazi, the Aurora airport-shuttle driver who pleaded guilty to planning a terrorist attack in New York. He sniffed for further danger after last summer’s Aurora theater massacre. He protected dignitaries during the August 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. And he kept countless sports fans safe by canvassing stadiums game after game.
He started in quieter times. Once, a Castle Rock teen threatened to blow up a school. Ostermann and Lambert showed up at the house to look for weapons. A box of screws on a table caught the dog’s attention. But there was no gun. Days later, Lambert got a call from a detective on the case. A gun was in the ceiling.
“If we would have looked in that ceiling panel, it would have fallen on us,” Lambert said. “It all made sense, and he was totally right.”
Lambert said he has spent sleepless nights lately worrying about the change of pace — for both him and the dog.
Ostermann, who will live with Lambert, is used to eating only when he finds explosives. What will he do with an entire bowl of food?
As Ostermann licked his hand and ignored the gun at his side, Lambert said, “I think he’ll figure it out.”
~ Courtesy of Denver Post
Tags: ATF dog retires, Denver bomb dog