By Jessica Vallejo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The AmericanAirlines Arena opened its doors Thursday to a limited number of fans for the first time in months.

“It has been forever, obviously, with COVID going on. I can’t wait,” said Heat fan Michael Gaulden.

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“I am so excited to watch the heat kick it off,” added another fan, Shawn Dollaway.

The Miami Heat first let loose their COVID-sniffing dogs before opening their gates. The team is the first in the NBA to ever use canines to screen the public for COVID.

Socially distanced, fans lined up to be sniffed by the Miami Heat’s detection dogs.

“Happy” is one of the four dogs that has been trained to sit down next to a person when he detects the virus.

“What we are doing is initial screening for triage. This is not a medical examiner. It is not Dr. Happy,” said Michael Larkin, vice president of Global Canine Protection Group.

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Canine experts said while research on coronavirus detection dogs appears promising, it is still not definitive.

Larkin said the dogs are trained to detect COVID-19 by sniffing a human’s sweat.

“In detection work, no matter the kind of work, there always has to be a second or third level of findings,” said Larkin.

However, this is one of the changes in the COVID-era for the Miami Heat. At Thursday’s game, only 1,500 fans were present.

In addition to being sniffed, fans were also socially distanced in the stands and had to wear masks at all times.

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Those who sat within 30 feet of the court received rapid tests beforehand.

Jessica Vallejo