Whether it’s holiday rush or just a normal day at Denver International Airport, security is always busy.
Especially when it comes to incoming international security, which is covered by US Customs and Border Protection.
United Airlines Flight 138 from Narita, Japan, lands at Denver International airport at noon on a Tuesday.
About 250 passengers empty out of the plane with at least as many bags and souvenirs in tow.
International Security for flights like this is in the hands, or the paws, of Bryce the beagle. He's a 26 pound law enforcer.
“When he has his vest on, he knows it’s serious game on,” said Laura Van Alyne, Bryce’s Handler at DIA.
For Bryce, his job is hide and seek at its best.
“He loves playing the game and loves to do it all the time,” Van Alyne said.
For Homeland Security, the beagle's golden nose, is the greatest tracker of all time.
“The smellier something is, the easier it is for him to find it,” said Van Alyne.
Bryce is part of a beagle brigade. There’s a 110 of these dogs stationed at airports across the country.
All of them are rescue dogs, trained by the USDA. He is cute, but he will bust you in a heartbeat.
“He loves finding apples and ham sandwiches,” Van Alyne said.
It's all about the nose. Beagles can smell a hundred times better than humans.
On this incoming international flight, fresh flowers and a banana are confiscated almost immediately upon travelers entering the baggage claim area.
So are fresh mango slices, lychee, pork rinds and a Japanese pizza with fresh meat.
“He's gonna work the baggage belt and sniff all the luggage you're bringing with you to make sure what you’re bringing is allowed in the United States,” said Joann Winks, Assistant Port Director for US Customs and Border Protection. “There’s just so many weird things that come in daily.”
From pig intestine, to cow urine and European sausages, duck tongue, birds nest soup, chicken feet, chicken feathers, there's a reason some gifts and goods can't leave the airport.
“We have to look at the risk in the entire US,” Winks said. “Because they'll connect to a flight to California and if we miss that one mango with a fruit fly in it and they throw it in the trash that's all it takes to create an outbreak.”
The beagle is one of many tools used to track incoming goods from international flights.
Bryce has the power to prevent foot and mouth disease, mad cow, avian influenza and just about every other disease from coming into the US - an outbreak could cost the US economy, billions.
“He is so good at doing his job and he's right so often,” Van Alyne said.
Bryce's track record is pretty impressive. He confiscates up to a hundred pounds of random items a day.
“He does not know how to quit,” Van Alyne said. “I have to tell him it’s time for his break.”
By law, Bryce can only work for 45 minutes at a time. Then he must take a mandatory break to recharge and be a dog. This beagle bears the burden of international security at DIA.
Talk about pressure. But to Bryce, his office is the ultimate playground.
“When he retires I can adopt him and I will,” Van Alyne said. “When you work with these guys everyday it’s too hard to let them go.”
Bryce is 6 years old. The beagles in the beagle brigade have a mandatory retirement age of 9.
Bryce has been at DIA for 2 years and he gets a daily check up to make sure he and his nose are at the top of their game.