Winners from each of the eight hero dog categories (Service, Therapy, Hearing, Emerging Hero, Military, Guide, Search & Rescue, and Law Enforcement/Arson) will be announced on August 6 with their respective charity receiving $1,500.
The finalists receive airfare and accommodations for two to attend the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards Gala held October 6 at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles. The overall Hero Dog of the Year winner will be announced that night with the winning dog’s charity receiving an additional $5,000 for a total of $6,500 total prize monies.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office has named K9s4Cops as their charity recipient. The Houston-based group donated the money for HCSO to acquire many of its K-9 deputies.
The police-dog-in-training sticks his sensitive nose into one box, then another. At the third box, he sniffs, then sits. He’s found the hidden explosives, and he looks to his human partner for applause and a favorite ball.
“The dogs have to think that this is a game,” says Sgt. Mike Thomas, in charge of the canine unit for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “But it’s for real. It’s life and death.”
Since 1990, the number of canines with keen noses, great speed and firm bites has grown in the sheriff’s office from none to 24. Here and in law enforcement agencies across the country, rising numbers of highly trained dogs help with patrol work, hunt and rescues, and the detection of narcotics and explosives.
“I hope none of our dogs ever finds a bomb,” Thomas says, “but we are prepared.”
Before explosives hidden in backpacks wreaked havoc at the Boston Marathon, the sheriff’s office had two dogs trained in bomb detection. After a recent $48,000 gift from the nonprofit group K9s4COPS, Thomas was able to add four more to the mix.
Finding a match
Over Memorial Day weekend, Thomas and four officers new to the canine unit piled into a Ford F-350 and drove 19 hours to Denver, Ind., the Vohne Liche Kennels and police dog central.
The men, strangers to one another, bonded during the long, cramped trip. Then they had four days to forge similarly strong connections with new canine partners, ranging from 14 to 20 months old.
Watching almost a dozen dogs go through their paces, each man searched for a connection, a match. With each one they wondered – is this dog as talented a bomb dog as advertised? Will he protect me in an emergency? And since this dog is going to be living with me even during off hours, how will he respond to my wife and kids?
Deputy James Love’s car is specially equipped to transport Diesel.
Deputy Alex Chapa says Rocco was the eighth or ninth dog he met.
“I saw him, and I knew. And he responded to me, too.”
In time all four deputies – Thomas went along to facilitate – felt similarly committed. And as soon as they returned to Houston, canines in tow, they swung into an exhausting, 14-week training program.
“It’s just really neat to watch these dogs,” says Thomas, the Yogi Berra of sergeant/trainers. “They’re people just like us.”
Another Thomas wisdom: “It all goes down the leash. If a deputy comes in and has a bad attitude or doesn’t feel good or he’s moping around, that dog is going to be moping around, too.”
Rocco, Diesel, Gerard and Lucky are the new additions to the canine unit. Lucky is a black German shepherd; the rest are Belgian Malinoises. All four have the lean, hungry builds of young wolves, and they seem oblivious to Houston’s heat.
The deputies training with them are not so lucky.
“Hey,” a deputy hollers as the cool of the summer morning burns off. “Does anybody have some human water?”
Superstars at work and home
Thomas was working as a deputy in narcotics more than 20 years ago when his sergeant realized they could improve their success rates by adding drug dogs to the mix.
“We couldn’t see or smell the drugs,” Thomas says. “We’d stop a guy and know something was wrong, but we couldn’t find anything. The dogs pointed right to it.”
The canines also found crime scenes, rescued lost children and dementia patients and caught crooks.
“Most people know when a dog is coming,” Thomas says. “Guess what they do: They give up.”
Back in the day, Thomas says, “the dogs were known as land sharks because they would just bite everything.”
Over time, the dogs have grown more social. Thomas says his third dog, Eros, was a German shepherd who was a superstar at work and at home.
“My daughter, as a baby and a toddler, would sleep on that dog,” Thomas says. “They’d watch TV – they grew up together.”
He pauses and says, “You get attached.”
When Eros died, Thomas got a replacement dog who died of Addison’s disease.
“It was a tough year,” he remembers. “I got divorced, so I lost a wife and two dogs.”
Then Thomas paired up with Bart, another Belgian Malinois. “My guys were scared of Bart – he bit a few sergeants,” he says. “But really, he was a sweetheart. In the car he’d lick my ear or put his head on my shoulder. When he met my current wife, he just rolled over on his back. She says he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
Once Thomas and Bart were tracking a 4-year-old lost in the woods. Bart ran ahead, found the child crying and calmed him with lick therapy.
“I have tons of stories like that,” Thomas says. “Tons.”
Group has supplied 50 dogs to agencies
Police dogs cost an average of $12,000 – a prohibitive expense for many law enforcement agencies. That’s where K9s4COPS comes in.
“Our group got started after a canine working for Harris County Precinct 4 was killed in the line of duty, and the county didn’t have the funds to replace him,” executive director Liz Lara Carreño explains. “Our founder, Kristi Schiller, said, ‘We need to get that deputy a dog.’ ”
That was in 2009, and since then the group has bought as many as 50 dogs for law enforcement agencies here, around the state and across the country.
All of the K9s4COPS dogs come from the Indiana kennel, where their training begins. For Rocco, Lucky, Gerard and Diesel – and their deputies – the work will continue through the summer.
Deputy George Love says the main thing he’s learned so far is to stand back and let his dog, Gerard, work.
“He already knows everything,” Love says. “Mostly it’s me learning to read him.”
Deputy James Love (no relation to George) agrees. “The dogs know what they’re doing. We just have to follow them.”
Rocco, Lucky, Gerard and Diesel go home with their deputies when they’re not working, but most live in kennels in the backyard. Until they mellow, they’re tough on home interiors, and they shouldn’t be left alone with young children.
James Love is careful to supervise the interactions between Diesel and his 4-year-old son, but he says the two are already good buddies.
“My son loves Diesel,” Love says. “He already knows most of the commands.”
Deputy David Bair describes his dog, Lucky, as a partner who is trustworthy and true-blue.
“If you’re getting shot at – you always wonder – will your human partner fight, flight or freeze. But a dog will always fight for you. A dog will lay down his life for you.”
This article is from the Houston Chronicle and was written by Claudia Feldman. Photo supplied by Nick De La Torre.
Two Harris County police dogs have been nominated for the American Humane Society’s Hero Dogs Awards, and they need your votes:
Boomer, a German shepherd partnered with Deputy David Thomas, has worked for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office since April 2011. During his career, he’s taken more than $6 million worth of drugs off the street – and assisted in the arrest of 26 suspects. Those suspects were accused of narcotics possession, burglary, evading arrest and aggravated robbery. Tommy, a German shepherd partnered with Deputy Jason Bullock, has worked for the sheriff’s office since January 2012. In that short time, he has assisted in the arrests of 36 suspects, uncovered a crime scene, taken hundreds of pounds of drugs off the street, confiscated 10 firearms and found an old man who was lost.
Read more about them under the law enforcement category at www.herodogawards.org/vote. Voting ends July 30. Individuals may cast a ballot for one dog per category per day.
This article is from the Houston Chronicle and was written by Claudia Feldman. Photo supplied by Nick De La Torre.
The snap, crackle and pop of fireworks, backyard barbecues and spending time with your family and friends is a Fourth of July tradition. All of the bright lights and noise may be exciting to us, but it can be scary and harmful to our four-legged family members.
The Houston SPCA has a few helpful tips to help keep your pets safe:
• All pets should be microchipped and wear collars and identification tags with current information. Cats should wear a break-away/safety collar. Dogs should wear nylon or leather collars only. Tags should not be placed on training collars or choke chains.
• Keep your pet indoors in a quiet, safe room with plenty of fresh water and give dogs several safe chew toys. Dogs that are crate trained will do better in a crate, while cats will do best in a room they are most comfortable in, with food, water and their litter boxes.
• Frightened outdoor dogs have been known to jump high fences and dig holes to escape the sound of fireworks. Indoor animals should be kept away from large glass windows or doors because they are highly capable of crashing right through when scared.
• Outdoor firework displays can be loud and crowded and not the place to bring your pet. If you stay home, never use fireworks around your pet.
• Pets are safest at home, but if you choose to bring your buddy to a picnic or BBQ, make sure to bring plenty of fresh water, keep your pet in the shade and try to make sure they do not eat table scraps, as too much human food can cause stomach upset. Keep a sharp eye out for bones, because they can splinter if eaten. Keep your pet on a leash, and if your pet is crate trained, bring the crate along as a safe refuge.
• Make sure to keep all alcoholic drinks where your pets cannot reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets and in severe cases can cause death.
• Keep your pet away from citronella candles, matches, and lighter fluid. If they ingest these products it could cause gastrointestinal irritation and possibly central nervous depression. In addition, do not use sunscreen or insect repellent on your pet that is not specifically labeled for use on animals. Consult your veterinarian for specifics.
• Remember to keep a watchful eye on your pet this Fourth of July weekend and make sure to keep the name and number of your veterinarian and local animal emergency clinic on-hand in case of emergencies.
LEE — By Labor Day, the Lee Police Department expects to add a four-legged crime-fighter to the local police force.
The department has received a $25,000 private grant to establish its first canine unit to assist in the search for suspects, missing person, drugs and other evidence of a crime.
Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis says the money from the New York-based Stanton Foundation will pay for acquiring the dog, training its handler and other expenses for a three-year period.
“The presence of the dog may deter property crimes as people will know we can track them,” Buffis said. “The dog will also be a great public relations tool for the community and the police department.”
Officer Craig DeSantis has been designated to be the dog’s handler and in mid-July he’ll begin a six week training course at a Pennsylvania dog kennel that specializes in police dogs. DeSantis says he’ll be choosing his new partner from three breeds of dogs: Dutch shepherd, German shepherd and Belgian Malenois, another type of shepherd.
“I’m looking a dog that is the best fit for me and best fit for the town,” said the 17-year veteran of the Lee police force.
Upon completion the training, DeSantis will be responsible for man’s best friend 24/7 by making the dog part of his family.
Lee is looking to join Pittsfield, Lanesborough, North Adams, Williamstown and the Berkshire Sheriff’s Office as the other local law enforcement agencies with canine units.
While the Lee Board of Selectmen support the canine unit, the concern is funding the unit after the initial funding runs out. Buffis has said he will explore raising other private donations for the annual $3,000 to $4,000 needed to maintain the canine unit beyond the three-year grant.
Duluth police K9 Officer Marc Johnson said the department’s newest police dog, Oakley, is friendly, smart, athletic and has a nose that fleeing criminals — especially those with drugs — can’t hide from.
“You and I can walk into a room and we know that a pizza is being baked,” Johnson said, and then used a little hyperbole to make his point: “Oakley can walk into the same room and tell you that the pizza is a thin-crust pizza with mushrooms, pepperoni and sausage on it.
“That’s what makes him so effective in detecting drugs, detecting human scent, being able to follow somebody through the woods on a mile-and-a-half track and know whether the suspect went left, right, straight or back to where they came from.”
Oakley, a purebred German shepherd from Czechoslovakia, is a fully trained police dog with the ability to sniff out drugs and suspects. He’s his department’s newest K-9. He was purchased for $13,000, using a donation from Amsoil.
Oakley had another name when Johnson got him. It was assumed that he named the dog after Oakley sunglasses. “No,” Johnson said, “but he’s cool enough to wear them.”
Johnson has worked with the dog for about eight months. He recalled the day they met.
“I remember Oakley just stood and looked at me like, ‘Hmm. Who are you?’ It was intimidating at first. It really was,” Johnson said. “You look at this big hulk of a dog and you know what he’s capable of, and now he’s your responsibility to become ‘Alpha’ over him. That’s quite the duty.”
Johnson bonded with Oakley when the dog learned where his next meal was coming from.
“Once I fed him, that was it; he was putty in my hands,” Johnson said. “He was like, ‘All right. You’re a pretty cool guy. You’re giving me food. I like you.’ ”
The officer said he isn’t embarrassed to admit that he sometimes talks to his partner as if the dog is human. Other times, he sings to him. What does he sing? Johnson laughed and said, “Like the Mickey Mouse song: O-A-K-L-E-Y — Y? Because we do police work.”
Oakley has been involved in several successful operations with the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force. He’s found heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine. So far he hasn’t had to latch onto anyone’s rear end.
The officer and Oakley work 12-hours shifts at night in the summer and 10-hour shifts at night in the winter. They then go home together, where the city built a kennel and a warm dog house.
He doesn’t feed his dog any table scraps and nothing fancy for food. “We keep his rewards basically limited to keep his drive up,” Johnson said. “God forbid we give him steak and all of a sudden he won’t work for anything but steak. That could become expensive, and I don’t think the city would appreciate that bill coming in every month.”
Police dogs are usually male and range in size from 60 to 100 pounds. Oakley is average size at 75 pounds, but Johnson said that’s the only thing average about his partner. The dog’s special attributes?
“His drive; his playfulness; his good, lean, athletic build which allow him to do things like hurdles — and he’s so intelligent,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the more intelligent dogs that I’ve seen. You can look in his eyes and see the wheels turning. You can see him thinking through things. Whereas, if I look at my (pet) dog’s eyes I just see: ‘When are we eating next? When is dinner?’
“You look into Oakley’s eyes and see a different kind of gaze. … He’s like, ‘OK, Dad, what are we going to do? When are we going to do it?’
“My Lab wouldn’t care if a burglar came into my house and I was fighting with him. He might just go to his food dish and eat. Oakley would help me out. He’d know the burglar was coming probably a half-hour before he even showed up. He’d be pacing or doing something. He’s so perceptive. It’s been absolutely astonishing learning how perceptive a dog can be.”
Oakley is sometimes used as a deterrent and to ratchet down heated street disputes.
“There’s been a couple of instances where large groups of people, maybe 15 to 20 are in a brawl, and we’ll bring a dog out or two, and all of a sudden people stop fighting immediately,” Johnson said.
Sgt. Brad Wick, Duluth police K-9 training coordinator, said that Johnson has found his niche in police work.
“The qualities that Marc has shown during his career that made him a good K9 officer are common sense, good decision-making abilities and ability to make that decision quickly,” Wick said. “He has a strong work ethic, can work independently with little or no supervision, has the ability to lead, is personable and good in front of a crowd (for demonstrating Oakley’s abilities to the public), is patient and willing to sacrifice.”
Johnson said the biggest misconception about K-9 training is not so much about the dog’s training, it’s underestimating the training the handler needs on how to read the dog, how to work off each other and become one cohesive unit.
The officer said his dog can read him and know when he’s having a bad day.
“I received a lot of good advice from Brad Wick, but the thing that always stuck with me is how much the dog feeds off of you,” he said. “They always say that your attitude goes down the leash and into the dog. So if you are feeling frustrated or down and confused, the dog is going to read that and it’s just going to make things twice as bad. It’s important that you always keep an upbeat, positive personality, and the dog will feed on that and keep its personality, as well.”
Johnson, 29, is a 2002 graduate of Hibbing High School. After obtaining his law enforcement degree, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Bemidji State University.
Johnson said Oakley probably will be on the force for five to nine years, depending on how his health holds up. K-9 officers are allowed to keep the dogs after they are retired, and Johnson said he will keep Oakley for life. He said his dog will have earned that.
“These dogs have abilities that no law enforcement officer, no matter how well they are trained, could ever have,” Johnson said. “They are so useful to us. They’re so essential to what we do on a daily basis, that if we didn’t have a K-9 unit we wouldn’t be near the organization that we are.
K-9s not only help us do our jobs. They keep the streets safe.”
After five years of service, Anderson Police is getting ready to retire one of their K-9s, 7-year-old Nikita.
The German shepherd has worked with Officer Stephen Harper since February 2008.
“He’s probably saved my life more times than times than I’ll ever know just by him barking, being there, and people knowing he’s there,” said Officer Harper.
Nikita has been involved in many cases including ones involving narcotics, stolen property, finding suspects and even an officer’s worst nightmare – apprehending a wanted fugitive who was wanted in an officer-involved shooting.
“He’s been put into situations that would have been real dangerous for officers to go into,” said Officer Harper.
The Anderson Police department is getting ready to have a spaghetti fundraiser to raise funds for the dog that will replace Nikita. The spaghetti fundraiser will be put on by the Anderson Veterans of Foreign Wars.
SELLERSBURG, IN (WAVE) – The Clark County sheriff tells WAVE 3 News that one of his officers has been wounded during a standoff. Indiana State Police say the man ran from officers while they trying to serve a warrant in Sellersburg.
ISP also said one of their police dogs was also shot and killed during the standoff.
Sheriff Danny Rodden said the man involved remains in a standoff with police at a house that does not belong to him.
Investigators said the man ran away on foot as Sellersburg police tried to serve the warrant. The suspect ran into a house on East Delaware and fired shots. It is not known whether police returned fire.
An ISP K-9 was hit by at least one bullet and killed. Sources tell WAVE 3 News the dog was Kilo, a well-known police dog that made numerous drug busts with his officer handler. It is not immediately clear whether there are hostages.
Some neighbors are being kept from their homes at this time.
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (KMTR) – Police dogs from around the state will be participating in the 18th annual police dog competition Saturday, June 15.
The Springfield Police K-9 Unit is hosting the 18th annual police dog competition at Springfield High School’s Silke Field at 800 Tenth Street on Saturday from 12:00 to 2:30 PM.
Police dogs from around the state will be participating; dog teams scheduled to compete in this year’s event are from Corvallis, Deschutes County, Bend, Roseburg, Washington County, Eugene and Springfield. A demonstration will be put on by a detection dog from the Corvallis Police Department.
The competition involves timed events, including both the dog and handler. Events include an agility course, area search, handler protection, fastest dog and suspect apprehension.
The public is invited to attend free of charge. T-shirts, hats and other Springfield K9 merchandise will be available for purchase. Addi’s Diner will be selling food. All proceeds will go toward the purchase of Springfield K-9 equipment and training.
For additional information, contact Sergeant Rich Charboneau at 541 726-3728.