Abigail Arias, a seven-year-old girl with a rare form of pediatric cancer, is officially the world’s youngest Vapor Detection Canine Handler. Abigail visited the Vapor Detection K9 Training Academy in Anniston, Alabama on July 24 for a hands-on lesson in the explosive detection training used by some of the country’s most well-known law enforcement agencies and security companies, including the NYPD Counterterrorism Unit and Amtrak.
The Arias family and Freeport, TX police chief Raymond Garivey toured the VWK9 facility, meeting canine handlers and trainers, as well as dogs trained in the patented Vapor Detection method of body-worn explosive and weapons detection. VWK9 trains canines to follow the scent plumes created by explosives directly to their source—even in large crowds. Abigail saw much of the patented training program used at VWK9 and even got to handle and groom a canine in training.
At the end of her visit, Abigail and her brother Ethan received an honorary Vapor Detection K9 Handler certification, personalized uniform shirt canine equipment bag. VWK9 President Paul Hammond presented the city of Freeport with a 6-week handler course and an explosive/weapons detection canine named Abigail in Arias’s honor. In a Facebook post, Garivey called the canine unit, “a blessing that we can use to protect our citizens” and thanked the VWK9 staff for their generosity.
“We welcome canine students from all over the world, but this was a special day for a special visitor,” VWK9 President Paul Hammond said. “It was an honor to host our newest K9 student – Abigail, and there was much excitement amongst our team to see this brave little girl visit and train with our young canines. We are now all Abigail Strong.”
Abigail has Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer that has now spread into her lungs. Her diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from following her big dreams to “fight the bad guys.” Abigail made headlines when she became an honorary police officer in her hometown of Freeport, Texas in February. Abigail’s emotional story has inspired people in her hometown and beyond. “We don’t know what tomorrow holds,” Abigail’s father, Ruben Arias, told Anniston’s WEAC TV. “But we embrace and we love every day.”
Abigail’s visit to Vapor Detection K9 training academy comes off the back of the launch of her charitable foundation “Officer 758’s Cancer Fight” which raises money for families of pediatric cancer patients who may not have access to insurance or funding for essential treatment. VWK9 also made a contribution to the foundation during Abigail’s visit.