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It's a (police) dogs life


June 01, 2000
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It's a (police) dogs life

The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.) -- Nestled at the southeastern edge of Chester County is Great Falls, a quiet rural town of 2,307 with a big city problem - drugs. Halfway between Charlotte and Columbia, drug runners use Great Falls as a transit stop. The town's limited budget can only afford a handful of cops, so officers usually work without back-up, often only one on duty per shift. Three months ago, Cpl. Eddie Fowler added a partner to department by donating his German shepherd, Doc Holiday, to the force. The pair work the the night shift: 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. "I feel safer knowing one of my officers has a dog to protect him," Sgt. Mike Revels said about Doc. Great Falls officer are used to being short of funds and raising money for equipment, and Doc is no different: No tax money is used on the canine. The Piggly Wiggly next door to the police station donates food, and Fowler pays the vet. Everything else was donated or handmade. While the 70-pound, 3-year-old canine expanded his olfactory recognition from marijuana and crack cocaine to include heroin and methamphetamines at a recent training session in Columbia, Doc adds more to the department than just his super sniffer - he also tracks people and searches buildings. Throughout history, dogs have served man in many ways. Collies shepherded livestock, Chihuahuas herded cattle and Saint Bernards kept monks alive on the frigid heights of the Swiss Alps. In Denmark, dogs are used in "scent line-ups." The results are admissible as evidence in court. In the United States, nearly every police department in the country either has its own K-9 unit or has access to one. Police dogs track fleeing criminals and missing persons, protect their handlers and sniff out drugs, explosives, bodies or chemicals used in arson. Departments in York and Chester counties have followed the national trend, using canines for such duties as arson detection, drug sniffing, searching and tracking. Sniffing out the bad guy For the last 15 years, one bloodhound has been top dog among all trackers used by local police agencies. Described as "the one good dog every man is entitled to," Hoss has worked for three different agencies and is father or grandfather to most of the bloodhounds used in York and Chester counties. He has been awarded the S.C. Police Hall of Fame Award. As leader of the bloodhound gang, Hoss was crucial to nabbing a father/son bank-robbery team and once followed a 13-mile track. Last year, he suffered heat stroke while chasing a suspect, and ever since, he's been in semi-retirement. But Hoss' work isn't over. "If we could clone him, we would," said Hoss' handler, Sgt. Randy Clinton of the York County Sheriff's Office. "When he stops putting them in jail, he can retire." Until then, Hoss waits for the big ones. A man with a gun who's hurt someone, a kidnapping or missing child. When there is an immediate danger, Clinton picks Hoss. "That's my friend, my buddy, my baby - we think alike," said Clinton. "He lets me know what he knows." That's the advantage of 13 1/2 years of working together. "I've got no complaints how he trained me," Clinton joked. When it's time to go, Hoss runs out the gate, relieves himself on a rose bush at the corner of the house and jumps into the back of Clinton's marked Bronco. Hoss's career began with the State Law Enforcement Division and then took him to the York Police Department. From there, he moved to the sheriff's office, where he was Clinton's first dog. Hoss still stays in the largest of seven pens in Clinton's home kennel. Partners against crime Like his cohort in Great Falls, Cpl. Rich Caddell of the York Police Department never works alone. In the back of a specially equipped car, a German shepherd named Hector lets Caddell chauffeur him around. "It's his car," Caddell said. "He just lets me drive." The back seat is gone. Inside, a special type of plastic lines the side and windows, so Hector can move around and see what is going on outside. Both Doc and Hector are considered multi-purpose dogs. They work as patrol dogs and drugs dogs. At 90 pounds, Hector can subdue a man behind the wheel of a car or drag him out of it. He can find a person hiding in a building or sniff out the item dropped in a field. Like Doc, he's also trained to smell drugs. But his first mission is to protect Caddell. A remote control on Caddell's belt activates an automatic door opener on the squad car. When Hector is needed - pop! - the door swings wide and Hector goes to work. Rock Hill's newest police dog, 18-month-old Cora, is still in training. A check from Milk-Bone Dog Biscuits and Harris Teeter for $ 5,000 paid for her and her training. A Belgian Malinois mix, Cora is training to be multi-purpose. Both Cora and Hector came from professional breeders and trainers and were brought up specifically for the purpose of patrolling and drug detection. This doesn't come cheap. While Doc was a gift, Hector was bought from a kennel in Florida. At $ 2,500, he was a bargain. Bow wow, you're busted When Sandy showed up at the Chester County Animal Shelter in November, she could have been facing a death sentence. Instead, the yellow Labrador retriever got drafted. Sandy's timing was key: Cpl. Sam Hartis of the Chester Police Department had come by a few months earlier to post an APB for a new dog for the department. Today, Sandy is the department's star sniffer, most recently praised for a drug raid at a Chester restaurant. "She is a real people dog, not aggressive at all, and really likes kids," Hartis said, adding his dog is like a child. Caring for her takes "a bit more responsibility. You have to watch her all the time." Sandy's counterpart at the Chester County Sheriff's Office, Xena, an 18-month-old black Lab, is a passive police dog. Xena is more likely to lick a crook to death than attack, says her handler, Chester County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. John Kelly. Both Xena and Sandy are trained for drug detection not patrol. When either finds a stash, she sits down in front of it. For the love of it Any handler will admit that police dogs work because they think they're having fun. When the dogs stop enjoying the work, they stop working. Xena, Sandy, Hector and Doc all get toys as a reward for good work. The bloodhounds chew a suspect's shoe and get praise from their handler. Other reward systems exist, too. SLED's recently retired arson dog, Radar, sniffed for his supper. As the state's poster dog for arson investigations, Radar rummaged through ashes to recognize the smell of 25 different kinds of fire accelerants - like gasoline or lighter fluid - in trace amounts as small as 1/16 of a droplet. His handler, special agent Andy Weir - fed the 9-year-old black Lab "kibble by kibble" out of his hand as reward for sniffing out the causes of suspicious fires. When there wasn't any work, Weir kept Radar in training, sniffing out fake fires for food. In the 5 1/2 years he spent on the force, this former guide dog covered 48 counties, including two in North Carolina, sniffed 334 cases and showed his talents in court. On the day he retired, Radar ate from a bowl for the first time since he joined the force.



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