TSA names 'cutest canine' among dozens of working dogs

Alona is a bomb-sniffing dog at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. (TSA Photo)

A very good golden retriever named Alona who helps keep Las Vegas McCarran International Airport safe is the year's "cutest canine" of the Transportation Security Administration, according to social media voters. 

Alona, whose full name is Nirvana-Alona, was voted as the cutest canine after a three-day nationwide social media contest held on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, according to the TSA.

Her first name, Nirvana, was given at birth by her breeder, and Alona paid homage to one of the victims in the 9/11 attacks. 

"Alona Abraham was an Israeli woman visiting her family in the U.S. and a passenger on Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles on that fateful morning," the TSA said. "Nirvana-Alona’s spirit embodies the joy that Ms. Abraham brought to those around her." 

Alona is an explosives-detection canine — a.k.a. Bomb-sniffing dog — at McCarran Airport. Born in Colombia, she can understand commands both in English and Spanish. Her favorite toy is a rubber ball that came with her from Colombia and she loves to play fetch when she's not on duty, the TSA said.

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In honor of National Dog Day, the TSA held the "cutest canine" contest to recognize some of the agency's hardest-working four-legged officers. The contest featured 77 working dogs.

"The canines were nominated by TSA handlers from airports around the country and voted on by dog lovers nationwide," the TSA said. "These highly-skilled dogs are paired with handlers who utilize the working canine's keen sense of smell when working throughout busy transportation environments."

The TSA has trained more than 1,000 canine teams that work at airports and mass-transit facilities in the United States.

"While TSA's canine partners are sociable, they are working dogs and should only be touched and fed by their handlers," the agency said.