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The nation’s capital can breathe easier during Monday’s Inauguration festivities – Gino and Cora will be on duty.

The pair of K-9s from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police Department are traveling with their handlers, Officers Robert L. Bove and David A. Capretto, to Washington today after they were chosen to augment an already mighty security force surrounding Monday’s inaugural ceremonies for President Obama.

Trained as “experts” in explosives detection, Cora, a 6-year-old German shepherd, and Gino, a Belgian Malinois who’s almost 5, will patrol Washington’s Metro subway system along with their handlers over the next few days.

They will ride the trains, stand guard at Metro stations, and do what they do best – look fierce enough to scare away any would-be criminals or terrorists.

“The NFTA Police Department is extremely honored to have these K-9s and their partners represent the department at the Presidential Inauguration,” Transit Police Chief George W. Gast said, explaining that his extensive K-9 force has just scored sky-high marks in evaluations performed by the federal Transit Security Administration.

“That’s one of the reasons the Department of Homeland Security has chosen them to assist in the Presidential Inauguration.”

During send-off ceremonies at NFTA Headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel presented her two crack police dogs 4 pounds each of Milk-Bone biscuits for the drive to Washington, dropping a few “appetizers” to both Cora and Gino as a hint that more such rewards could come.

Their task couldn’t be more serious, as Washington bears down for the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Inauguration.

The NFTA K-9 teams are two of 12 brought in from other police agencies across the country, chosen especially for their ability to sniff out explosives.

Bove and Capretto boast almost half a century of transit police experience between them, much of that time as K-9 handlers. They have undergone extensive training at Homeland Security facilities at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and have become familiar sights at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and on Metro Rail trains and at the stations.

After one NFTA K-9 team worked Inauguration detail in 2008, Bove and Capretto say they’re honored to be dispatched to Washington for this year’s ceremonies.

“I’ve had a pretty good career with the NFTA,” Capretto said. “This is one more thing I can add to the list of adventures I’ve had with the Transit Authority.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com