Bella, the WPI Police Department’s K9, has become a staple on campus in more ways than one. While she’s always available for a quick good luck pat or face lick before exams, her main job is explosives detection, and she provides an added presence to help keep the WPI community safe.
On Monday, April 17, instead of taking Patriots Day off like most employees in Massachusetts, Bella and her handler, WPI Police Officer Brian Lavallee, will be bringing their expertise to another community: this year’s Boston Marathon.
Bella and Lavallee are one of 43 teams from federal and state police departments across New England who will be working the Marathon by invitation from the Massachusetts State Police. “I’m proud of her,” Lavallee says with a smile. “Bella does an important job for WPI and helps create strong community and safety aspects here. It’s great to have the opportunity to do the same in Boston, and we’re thrilled with everyone’s support.”
Lavallee can’t specify where on the race route they will be stationed, but all attendees can be assured that he and Bella will be working hard with the rest of the teams on duty to ensure that everyone stays safe. She has been training every day as usual, but Lavallee explains that during the Marathon she’ll be searching buildings, vehicles, and open areas where runners and spectators will be present.
Bella will be on duty for the majority of the Marathon, but she’ll also have some time to relax and take a break from the action. Lavallee will be prepared with food and a water dish to help her stay cool and at the top of her game, while a WPI Police vehicle will be nearby, ready with air conditioning and her kennel for a quick rest.
Although the crush of the Marathon route poses a stark difference compared to WPI’s quiet campus, Lavallee explains that through her past training with the Connecticut State Police K9 Academy, Bella is prepared for any environment. She’s practiced in train stations, bus terminals, and arenas like Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, ensuring a smooth transition from WPI’s campus environment to the Marathon route. After this weekend, she'll be patrolling large, busy events at WPI like TouchTomorrow and commencement exercises.
“We’re doing something very important, and it makes you proud. You want everyone to have a fun, enjoyable day, and for us to be in the background making sure that it happens. It’s an honor." -Brian Lavallee
Marathon Monday signifies many things for many different people, but at its core, it’s a time for the community—running or cheering, local or visiting—to come together and celebrate the mammoth 26.2 mile achievement.
The role he and Bella play in the day isn’t lost on Lavallee. “We’re doing something very important,” he says, “and it makes you proud. You want everyone to have a fun, enjoyable day, and for us to be in the background making sure that it happens. It’s an honor.”
- By Allison Racicot