Kermit Durhman is a seven-year-old with a full-time job. This German Shepherd was trained to be a patrol dog. Due to a deformity in his left forepaw, Kermit’s trainers steered away from running intensive specialties such as drug-sniffing in favor of nitrate detection. Kermit is a bomb-sniffing dog. This skill led him to be one of the heroes at Ground Zero in the days following September 11. With Kermit by your side, you’ll never have to worry about being lost; he’ll find his way!
How does a dog that hails from Fort Collins, Colorado turn up for duty in the heart of New York City? His mom drove him, of course. Merlin Durhman, Kermit’s owner, is a native New Yorker who moved to Colorado in 1982. On September 6, 2001, this firefighter and EMT left Colorado to drive across country and visit family. She arrived in Boston Massachusetts on September 8, 2001. Before the second plane hit on the morning of the eleventh, Durhman checked in with a local fire department to see if she could be of service. Kermit was right at her side. The chief noticed that she had brought a dog into the firehouse and inquired about him. As Kermit can sniff bombs, they were going to originally send him to Logan Airport. Kermit and Durhman were cleared for dispatch by her union and arrived at Ground Zero thirty-six hours later.
Kermit’s job as a patrol dog differs from that of a rescue dog. Whereas rescue dogs sniff the air for human scent, his job is to find new human scent and disturbances on the ground. “We had never exposed Kermit to this,” said Durhman. She called her sergeant and was told Kermit could do it. Using a ball as a reward, “We introduced him into the hole and said, ‘Find him.’” On the second try, Kermit started to paw the ground; he had found a body. They were on scene at Ground Zero for approximately three weeks and returned home to Colorado in October.
Kermit is a renaissance dog. In addition to his work at Ground Zero, he does so much more. Twice a year, he works on his uncle’s ranch in South Dakota herding cattle. Back at home in Colorado, he helps with fire safety education and serves as Durhman’s social director. “I can’t take him out without adding an extra four hours onto my trip. . . He’s Mr. Social.”
The love of Kermit’s life is his giant squeaky football. “His whole world is that ball. If it’s not rubber and squeaky, he’s not interested.” Of course, there is a challenge to the ball’s dominance of Kermit’s affections. This challenge comes in the form of his new baby sister, Mouse, a Queensland Blue Heeler (another name for an Australian Cattle Dog). He can’t stand to be too far away from her.