Paw And Order….

Paw and Order…..


For the K-9 officers of the

Paw and Order…..


For the K-9 officers of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, working like a dog comes naturally.

The department’s canine contingent consists of four furry K-9s trained in explosives and narcotics detection and two slobbery bloodhounds. Here’s a close-up look at a dog’s life … and at their two-legged handlers.


“When I am getting ready for work, you can see her anxiousness,” Lt. Jimmy Erwin said of his K-9 co-worker, Sgt. Fiona.

“Fiona expects to get in the vehicle and go with me every morning. She would just as soon rather be in the crate in the vehicle than anywhere else.”

When on duty at Unicoi County High School, Fiona hangs out in the School Resource Officer’s office in another crate. Erwin said Fiona has a 100-percent desire to work. The 4-year-old Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd mix is a native of the former Czechoslovakia.

More than once a day, Erwin and Fiona patrol the school’s hallways. To keep Fiona’s training fresh, they train often with help from SRO Deputy Josh Bailey, who hides explosives components for Fiona to sniff and find.

Explosives aren’t the only thing Fiona is trained to find. She is also used to track lost children or adults because she is not trained to bite as part of her police work.

She also has a pretty good nose for finding treats, Erwin said.

In the office at UCHS, Libby Hatcher keeps a box of dog bones hidden for the police dog.

“Fiona expects it when she goes with me into the office,” Erwin said.

Sgt. Nero is always ready to work with his handler, Sgt. Heather Reams.

“He usually gets me up,” Reams said. “If I hit the snooze button, he jumps on the bed.”

During her interview with The Erwin Record and with Nero lying on the floor watching television, Reams was careful not to say the word “work.”

If I say the “W” word, he’s ready to go,” she said. “Or if he hears my equipment or me getting my gun belt, he’s ready.”

Sgt. Shane Hawkins and Sgt. Ajax work part-time for the UCSD on Fridays and Saturdays, but if it were up to Ajax, the two would work all the time.

“He’s always happy to go to work,” Hawkins said. “He will run circles in his kennel when he knows it is time to go. Then he runs straight to the car and sits and waits on me. He knows the difference from when we’re just playing outside to me in a uniform and ready to work.”

Ajax is trained for narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension.

Also part of the K-9 department are two bloodhounds, Big Tom and Buford, who are used in search tracking as well as public relations work.

Tom and Lynn Colbaugh funded the purchase of Big Tom and Maggie several years ago.

One litter of pups was born to the bloodhounds, and Buford was chosen to stay on and work with the department.

Buford and Big Tom have both been used to search for missing persons, and although they don’t report to work every day like the other K-9s, they regularly attend community events, participate in fundraisers such as the Relay For Life of Unicoi County and help with animal education programs for children.

The bloodhounds are friendly with children and adults and love to receive attention, in the form of belly rubs, from people in the community.

Sgt. Stacy Wigand, the K-9 supervisor for UCSD and handler for Sgt. Gary, said that when on duty, the officer is not only aware and concerned for his or her own safety, but for the dog’s protection as well.

Known to the public as Sgt. Gary, at home the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois from the Netherlands is actually named Wilco. He is trained to work in narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, handler protection and tracking.

“It’s an incredible bond because you have a partner that will give his life for you,” Wigand said.

There have been numerous cases across the nation in which the handler is injured and responding emergency personnel can’t get to the officer because the K-9 will continue to protect the handler.

Working with a K-9 carries an additional weight to bear as the officer must worry about his or her own safety, as well as protecting the dog and not putting the dog’s life in unnecessary danger.

“You worry for your dog just as much as you do for yourself,” he said.

But having a K-9 partner also provides a great sense of security to the officer, and it only takes the mere presence of the dog in the officer’s cruiser to bring some suspects into compliance.

“Every officer worries about himself when going on a priority call, but having that partner with you gives a sense of security,” Wigand said.

Shift Change

Once she’s home, Fiona changes into the role of a house pet.

“It’s a partnership,” Erwin said. “For most officers, when you’re on patrol, you’re by yourself. But with a K-9, you have always got a partner with you. At home or at the office, she’s always watching out for me. If I move, she doesn’t take her eyes off of me. All K-9s are like that.”

During patrol, Nero has been known to bark at every passing vehicle. But when he is at home in Reams’ apartment, he is quiet and spends his free time lounging on the deck watching kids play nearby.

“He loves kids,” she said, “but I do not as a general rule let kids pet him, just because of what he is.”

Sgt. Nero, 4, is a German Shepherd originally from the former Czechoslovakia. He is trained for narcotics, tracking and patrol. As part of that training, he is trained in bite work for apprehension purposes.

Wigand also notices a different attitude with Wilco when they are at home.

“It’s play time,” he said. “He has a different attitude when he plays with his tennis balls. When we’re at home, I just let him be a dog. I don’t give him any commands like what he would hear when we’re working.”

Hawkins said Ajax is a typical 3-year-old German Shepherd when he’s at home with the family’s two children.

“It’s just like he’s a pup to them,” Hawkins said of the family bond with Ajax. The family’s cat is the only one not fond of Ajax, but the dog really doesn’t pay attention to the cat’s distaste.

“He’s animal friendly,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t bother anything when we’re out on a call.”

Hawkins said Ajax will look at a rabbit and then back to his handler as if to ask, “What do you want me to do?”

Ajax is unique as a K-9 in that he refrains from barking.

“He is all business,” Hawkins said. “When he barks it isn’t good. He will bark when we train or if he knows there is a threat.”

Like a gentle giant, the 93-pound pup is friendly to others unless he gets a command from handler Hawkins.

“He is used to people, unless you give him his words, then it is game on,” Hawkins said.

“Like My Shadow”

“He’s like my shadow,” Reams said of Nero, “or my other half. I know that if I miss something, he is there watching for me. He always knows where I am at.”

Throughout her life, she’s owned several dogs as pets, but Reams said the bond is much different having a working dog by her side 24 hours a day.

“You know that you are going to take him into a situation that could turn ugly and during that situation he could be hurt or killed,” Reams said. “I certainly hope it never happens. But, if it does, I know he won’t hesitate.

“He is the eyes in the back of my head.”

One morning at around 4, Reams was stationed at Clear Branch when Nero growled from the cruiser’s kennel. She ignored his warning only to be startled seconds later when a bow hunter walked up from behind the vehicle.

“Nero heard him long before I did,” Reams said.

Just as a parent learns what a child’s cry means, Reams knows that each type of howl, growl or bark means something different. But just because it means something, it doesn’t mean that she understands exactly why he acts the way he does.

“It could mean that someone is there or we’re passing a certain telephone pole that he likes,” Reams said.

In particular, Nero is infatuated with a concrete statue of a bear at a residence on Chestoa Pike.

“You can’t make him stop barking at it,” she said, although she has no idea why he hates – or likes – the bear.

Many officers are alone in a cruiser for a majority of the day, but for a K-9 officer, the dog is not only a partner but a friend and confidant.

“You find yourself engaging in a conversation with the dog,” Wigand said, adding that, yes, of course, Wilco listens and can understand the conversation. “He barks back at me … To a citizen that has a dog, they can understand this. When you don’t feel good or you have a bad day, the dogs just know when you have a problem.”

With a permanent partner by his side, Wigand said he can confide in Wilco when he has worked a bothersome case, like child abuse.

“I can just pet him and he more or less can just brighten my day,” he said.

Being a K-9 officer is something all the officers streve  for in their early days working as deputies, but they all knew it took a lot of extra work and that leaving work at the office at the end of the day was impossible with a K-9.

For Erwin, the opportunity to have a K-9 partner was something he coulden’t pass up. Assigned to the school system, Erwin is able to take Fiona to his office every day.

“It’s like having a youngen’ with you 24/7,” Erwin said, “but it’s great having that camaraderie with a dog.”

“It’s a job and it’s fun,” Hawkins said. “It’s a lot of extra work but it’s worth it to see the reward in the end. Being a K-9 officer is something I wanted to do since I was a wee little fellow.”

To Hawkins the extra work pays off when he can feel Ajax watching him every second that he is working.

“I know he’s got my back and he knows I’ve got his,” Hawkins said. “He’s watching me everywhere I go.”

The daily stress of the job is never over because part of a handler’s equipment is riding along in the cruiser’s kennel and going home with the officer each night.

“It takes a unique officer to be a K-9 handler,” Wigand said. “It does add stress to the workload. It’s unlike any other tool that a police officer uses and they can just hang up at the end of the shift.”

Even on days off, the handler still has to maintain the dog. To those who are not K-9 officers, the dog can sometimes be seen only as a tool, or another resourceful piece of equipment for the department.

But, for the K-9 handler, the dog is much more.

“To the handler,” Wigand said, “he is part of the family.”


Military Working Dogs: The Army’s Four-legged Heroes

Military Working Dogs: The Army’s Four-Legged Heroes

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2007) – Some Army “heroes” serving with Soldiers in the war on terror seldom get mentioned in the media, although they, too, have died in combat while serving America. They are military working dogs, and during the Vietnam War 281 of these four-footed heroes died in action.

Military Working Dogs: The Army’s Four-Legged Heroes

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2007) – Some Army “heroes” serving with Soldiers in the war on terror seldom get mentioned in the media, although they, too, have died in combat while serving America. They are military working dogs, and during the Vietnam War 281 of these four-footed heroes died in action.

One such dog recently returned home to Fort Belvoir, Va., from a tour of duty in Iraq, where she spent six months detecting explosives. Vendi, a 4-year-old German shepherd, is one of many unsung heroes, military working dogs who work alongside U.S. service members.

Of about 500 MWDs currently detailed to the Army, many are working with Soldiers in Iraq, said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Nelson, Fort Belvoir’s K-9 kennel master. Deployed dogs can spend up to a year in the war zone and will eventually return to their home posts to resume duties as patrol dogs, specializing in narcotics or explosives detection.

Nelson and his team of 10 dogs and their handlers make up the Fort Belvoir Police Canine Unit, and Nelson anticipates getting four more dogs.

“These dogs are our partners, not our pets,” Nelson said. And while they can be their handler’s best friend, they can be a foe’s worst enemy. When their aggression level is high and they’re looking for something to bite, that’s when they become “war dogs,” and they can be as intimidating and formidable as any armed Soldier. The average German shepherd’s bite can exert up to 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch, Nelson said.

Seven-year-old Arrow, a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix, has an impressive record, Nelson said. Arrow assisted the U.S. Secret Service in about 50 missions, including providing security at the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions. Arrow and Nelson, his handler at the time, also helped provide security for President Bush and John Kerry on the 2004 campaign trail.

Fort Belvoir’s team of German shepherds and Belgian malinois are dual-certified as both patrol-narcotics or patrol-explosives dogs, and are trained to detect a variety of explosives or narcotics. When commanded to search, the dogs are extremely focused and obsessively search for contraband, obeying the handler’s precise one-word commands they were taught in training.

The dog teams are held to high standards and are subject to monthly proficiency tests and quarterly validations, Nelson said.

German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are specifically chosen for the type of work they do because of their endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to almost any climate, Nelson said. Though their hearing is better than that of humans, their keenest sense is of smell.

“The dogs smell the way we humans see. They can smell an infinite number of different scents in an area, just as we see many different images at once, in one place,” Nelson said.

Two-year-old Tarak, the newest German shepherd at the Belvoir kennel, arrived in March from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where all MWDs are trained. Tarak graduated from a 120-day training course that teaches MWDs a variety of aggression techniques, including methods of attack. The first phase of training involves searching buildings and scouting for “bad guys.” The second phase is detection training.

The primary function of a patrol dog team is to utilize the dog’s keen senses of hearing and smell to conduct walking patrols around buildings and open areas, “for people who try to elude police,” said Nelson.

Patrol dogs are trained to remain alert but calm with unfamiliar people, and to discriminate between threatening and nonthreatening people. The dogs are trained to attack as well as instantly stop the attack when given the command to do so.

Nelson said the Army has the strictest policy concerning the training of MWDs. They undergo at least 16 hours’ training monthly, in both detection and patrolling. In narcotics detection the dogs must maintain 90-percent proficiency, and in explosives detection must achieve at least 95-percent proficiency, Nelson said.

The staff at the Lackland Training Detachment, 701st Military Police Battalion, trains all MWDs in explosives or narcotics detection. The program also teaches the dog basic obedience, as well as more advanced skills, such as how to attack and how to sniff out specific substances.

Once the dogs receive their initial training, they and their trainers work as a team. The dog has skills to learn, and the handler has to learn to recognize what the dog is trying to communicate, Nelson said.

Each handler is assigned to one dog and is charged with building a strong rapport with that dog. This results in an effective and trusting team. Handlers are responsible for the feeding, grooming, training and exercising of their assigned partners.

Army regulations dictate that handlers and their MWDs have 45 to 90 days to become certified in narcotics or explosives detection once the team is given its assignment.

While training their dogs, handlers must be patient or the dog will become confused and hard to handle, Nelson said. When a dog performs a desired task, he’s rewarded with verbal or physical praise and positive reinforcement. Likewise, with incorrect responses, praise and reward are withheld. Positive training is the key to training dogs to obey, Nelson said.



–Thank you to the hard working German Shepherds that are fighting for our freedom and even more thanks to the ones that did not make it home.



German Shepherds helping our military

Thanks to the German shepherd dogs sniffing out explosives more of friends and family are able to come home to us safe and sound.

Thanks to the German shepherd dogs sniffing out explosives more of friends and family are able to come home to us safe and sound.

BAGHDAD — Neil is a somewhat excitable, dark-haired 18-month-old German Shepherd dog but it has a healthy wet nose which crucially for the people of Iraq has been trained to sniff out explosives.

During a demonstration at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Neil scurried around a car, smelling its front and back seats, boot and bonnet, before a handler patted its head approvingly and told a temporarily inconvenienced driver he could go.

“We only check the cars we are suspicious of,” said an Iraqi police officer, who admits single male drivers are the group most likely to be stopped because they are seen as potential suicide bombers.

A recent scandal over a hand-held bomb-detection device which the Iraqi security forces use at checkpoints, but which US and British tests have shown is incapable of detecting explosives, has forced them to look at other options.

The use of more sniffer dogs is a direct response.

“We have 47 bomb dogs,” said Brigadier General Mohamed Mossheb, commander of the K-9 unit at Baghdad Police College, and the officer tasked with building up the war-torn nation’s canine capability.

The German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds (Malinois), and Labradors being used in Iraq are typically around one year old. They cost between 8,000 and 9,000 dollars and arrive from the United States or the Netherlands fully trained ahead of an expected 10-year working life.

The price is a fraction of the estimated 16,500 to 60,000 dollar cost of the ADE651, the hand-held gadget known locally as the “Magic wand,” which despite being banned from exports by Britain, where it was bought, is still used throughout Iraq and around 20 other countries.

However, the task facing Mossheb, 48, who trained for five years at Baghdad Veterinary College before joining the police dog unit in 1986, is immense.

“We would need 1,000 dogs to cover the entire country,” said the officer, whose uniform bears the badge of a German shepherd with its long red tongue hanging out. “We have a plan in place but it will take time.”

The next steps are to have six dogs at each of 18 checkpoints surrounding the capital by the end of 2011, a further 20 at police stations on the east and west sides of the city, and several in each of Iraq’s 17 other provinces.

Security concerns are particularly heightened in the run-up to the country’s March 7 general election, amid fears of politically motivated violence.

The government is also under severe pressure from opponents who say a series of coordinated suicide attacks that killed more than 400 people in Baghdad in the past six months prove it has failed to secure the capital.

Mossheb is acutely aware of allegations that the ADE651, more than 1,000 of which were bought by the government, failed to detect bombs that have caused hundreds, possibly thousands, of deaths since it came into use in 2008.

“This machine has caused many problems,” he said. “But it is a matter for the government to resolve.”

With bombers using increasingly sophisticated techniques, including hiding explosives in car frames or engines so they cannot be detected by the naked eye, sniffer dogs are considered very reliable.

While the dogs arrive in Baghdad fully trained, a team is needed to look after them. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians and handlers are taking separate nine-week training courses at the K-9 unit’s headquarters.

Trainee handler Ammar Ali Najim, 31, from the northern city of Kirkuk, has spent one week at the police college and is acutely aware of the job’s dangers.

“Even if there is a bomb and it explodes, maybe my dog and I will die, but we might save the lives of 12 or 15 other people,” he said.

Cultural concerns over the use of bomb-sniffing dogs, however, have been a worry, given that many Muslims consider them dirty animals.

While US soldiers and foreign private security firms have used dogs for years, Iraqis have been reluctant to, because soldiers did not like using them and the local population disliked being searched by them.

US military officers, who were the first to question the effectiveness of the ADE651, believe dogs and more expensive hi-tech X-ray vans, which can screen an entire vehicle’s contents, offer the best defense.

The sheer difficulty of stopping car bombs, however, is apparent on the congested streets of the capital where traffic jams are constant.

On Abu Nawas Street in Baghdad, through which an explosives-laden bus passed before the driver detonated its payload outside the Sheraton Hotel last month, killing several people, it was obvious that the police face a stark dilemma.

In the two-and-a-half minutes it took Neil to check one car, around 70 vehicles, including several Lorries and small buses, were waved through without delay.

So with the hard work of Neil and other German Shepherds hard at work hope fully they can get the bombs be for it’s too late. And make it a little safer for our soldiers.

–So I thank you to the heroic German shepherd’s for there hard work more of are friend and family coming home. And again thank you



working to fight crime

What of the GSD in Police work today? The PSD of today may work in a rural or even wilderness environment where the primary function of the K-9 Team is Search and Rescue.

What of the GSD in Police work today? The PSD of today may work in a rural or even wilderness environment where the primary function of the K-9 Team is Search and Rescue. Alternately, the team may be a specialty unit within one of the world’s great industrial cities where apprehending armed suspects who have fled from attempts to apprehend them are their only job. The majority of the K-9 Teams that exist today fall within a broad range in between these extremes. In addition there are specialty teams whose sole responsibility may be the detection of contraband, cadavers, explosives, or the trailing of suspects. To adapt to a range of behaviors as broad as the demands upon the modern service dog takes a superior animal. Does the German Shepherd of today measure up?

In selecting dogs for the work it is usual to look towards dogs bred for the role as working dogs. In searching for these animals PSD instructors have been turning more and more to eastern countries for GSD’s and to other breeds such as the Malinois and Dutch Shepherd varieties found in Holland, Belgium, and with growing frequency even in Germany. Ongoing talks between the SV and representatives of the German Police have seemed to produce no increase in the number of serviceable German Shepherds available for Police use in the German Shepherds home country. This factor may have in part led to the International Deutcher Meisterschaft being removed from the Bundesiegerprufung where it has historically been run alongside the civilian GSD working championship. The total number of German Shepherd Dogs employed by the German Police continues to plummet. At least in one state less than half of the Service Dogs are German Shepherds. Here in the U.S. the German Shepherd is often considered a lesser dog than some of the alternate breeds available for purchase. Very few of the GSD Police dog candidates available can claim Germany as their place of origin. Even among the USA Schh III Championships a minority of the dogs have Germany as a birthplace and many of the producers of the Bundesseiger participants claim other countries of origin.

Numerous reasons have been put forth as the decline of the GSD in police work. The increase in the popularity of the German Shepherds whose primary breeding objective has been the show ring, a failure of the breeding public to recognize the working traits in breeding pairs. The sport has been criticized in its failure to weed out the less than desirable candidates from the gene pool. The lack of strong selection for fighting instinct in the korung, no evaluation of play drive in the korung, the tendency to breed based on Schh scores instead of the totality of working ability of the dog. Have all been said to be contributing factors.

Arguments are many and to assign blame for the loss of the working foothold the GSD has held since Max V. Stephanitz popularized the breed based on its working ability is impossible nor is it really useful. What must happen if the GSD is to continue to make an impact in the application of working ability within the law enforcement community is that the candidates must be available. In choosing an individual animal for inclusion into the ranks of police service dogs’ responsible instructors will reject the lesser animals, and if this is the GSD so be it. The police are in the business of finding suspects, evidence, and apprehending criminals. If the traditional GSD no longer provides for these needs responsibility dictates that candidates are sought elsewhere.

What needs to be done? Here is the area where no one agrees on how to fix the problem or whether there is even a problem to fix. Advocates of the working show dog say that the working dog must come to the show standard and advocates of the working lines say that this will only degrade the working ability of the GSD even further. The Police have demonstrated one solution in the German state of Northrhine-Westfalia. The state has developed a breeding program for both he GSD and unregistered dogs of Malinois type whose background is out of Holland. The goal is to provide healthy working specimens for the police. The majority of the police dogs used as PSD’s are now bred by the state in Northrheine-Westfalia. This solution may expand among jurisdictions, which have the facilities, know how, and financial support for such a program. Here in the U.S. the possibility for such an endeavor among virtually all jurisdictions is most likely impossible. The reliance of local law enforcement on imports from abroad and from hobby breeders will continue. It is in this arena that the hobby breeder can support their local law enforcement efforts through the development of a breed program, which places the greatest emphasis on healthy dogs of exceptional working ability.

Often breeders complain about not being able to place the progeny they have with working homes. As the supply of working candidates continues to be less than the growing demand for service dogs this situation can and will change. But, only if the GSD production results in serviceable police dog candidates will responsible breeders, sport enthusiasts, law enforcement and others that need working drives in their dogs seek out the GSD. If the working test, the korung, and the designs of the breeders do not correspond to this the answer will be in using lower quality dogs or simply discontinuing the use of the GSD in canine programs.

Currently, a large number of handlers and agencies seek alternate breeds for application as PSD’s. The GSD is being bypassed due to a consensus that there are too few with adequate drives to perform the rigorous duties as a PSD. In addition the technology of applying service dogs in a wide variety of environments and tasks has placed increasing demands on the dogs placed in service with Law Enforcement. Today the application of the PSD to work in coordination with a SWAT Team is commonplace where small deficiencies in environmental security, sound sensitivity, and nervous thresholds become readily apparent and may cause failure in a critical task.

The demands on control of the PSD have increased immensely in light of the litigious society that exists today. Certainly not less important there is the need for control to maintain the safety of the handler and other law enforcement personnel involved in the apprehension of armed violent suspects who have chosen to flee and hide from law enforcement efforts to apprehend them. As such deployments become more commonplace the demands on the character and temperament of the service dogs rise. All sport enthusiasts are aware that the ability to control a dog comes from the animal’s courage and hardness as well as a good dose of trainability, in the past always the hallmark of the GSD.

Scent work is now focused on working in urban and suburban environments where tracking often is performed over difficult terrain including pavement and through areas where a large number of people reside and contaminate a would be track. Additional scent work has been added through the efforts of law enforcement to investigate drug importation and distribution, arson, clandestine gravesites and various other forensic applications. Search and Rescue, and Disaster Search have been on the increase as people flock to our wilderness areas for recreation. Disaster aid is in demand worldwide due to natural occurrences and the real threat of terrorist actions. Unfortunately, the scent work application in sport is minimal and does not present an adequate standard for producing progeny, which are predisposed to this type of application. The German Police have discussed adding retrieval exercises to the korung of breeding candidates for several years without a corresponding test being added by the SV. Such a test would provide at least one important characteristic that is used in almost all scent work applications, the desire to search and retrieve a variety of objects.

The GSD has held sway over the police canine arena since the turn of the century. In the past it has been held as the example for other breeds to attain. Unlike herding where many breeds have demonstrated the ability to perform this task, often at a level higher than the GSD, no breed has endeared itself to law enforcement and others in need of a strong working dog like the GSD. Although the breed is a multi-purpose breed doing tasks such as guide dog for the blind, search and rescue, and home companion/protector the GSD has been king of the police service dog for nearly its entire existence. With the change in emphasis towards beauty and elegance among the GSD breeders the breed may be abandoned by law enforcement. The GSD is at risk to becoming what Max Von Stephanitz said it was not: “a fancy dog.”