RANSON – Matthew Fiorvanti’s new business is all about helping ensure the public’s safety, from detecting explosives at concert venues, schools, factories and other locales to tracking a lost gun or other article or even a missing person.
Fiorvanti, a 2001 graduate of Jefferson County, launched Critical K-9 Detection after serving eight years in the Air Force, including working with dogs while serving in Afghanistan.
“I saw how smart dogs are,” Fiorvanti said. “You can’t fool a K-9.”
Now a member of the Army National Guard based in Martinsburg, Fiorvanti says he’s pleased that he and his specially trained dogs can offer protection and peace of mind throughout the Eastern Panhandle and beyond. The job is satisfying and challenging, he said.
“You know you’re making a difference,” he said.
Thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Fiorvanti was able to attend American K-9 Interdiction Academy, a specialized training facility in Carrsville, Va., near Norfolk.
Starting in October of last year, Fiorvanti completed more than 300 hours of training there.
“A bond forms between man and dog,” he said. “A dog will do anything for you. They are great for security and protection.”
Students who successfully complete the course get to bond and train with an academy dog. Fiorvanti is certified to work with Atos, a Belgian Malinois. He said he has a second dog, a German shepherd named Cody, almost completely trained and will look to continue to expand. “My idea is to start small and grow,” he said.
Fiorvanti formally launched his business in December. “We are a detection team,” Fiorvanti said. “Atos can find explosives. He can track and rescue.”
The team’s services are used in a variety of venues. “You’ll see dogs in stadiums. They can sniff traces of explosives on people. Technology in this area isn’t enough.”
Fiorvanti works nearly every day with Atos, with some of the training taking place in Sam Michael’s Park in Shenandoah Junction.
“I want people to see us and get to know us,” Fiorvanti said.
Fiorvanti says the training is repetitive and driven by the promise of rewards.
“Depending on the scenario, he will alert me by sitting or raising his paw, then he gets to play with a ball,” he said. “Atos listens to me. He wants to please me. We learn from each other all the time.”
Fiorvanti also is offering obedience training to help dog owners work with their own dogs.
He has plans to buy property, perhaps in Summit Point, to open his own training facility. He’d use the location as home for his trained dogs and to provide boarding for dogs, too.