I’m a volunteer for the Pasco County, Florida Sheriff’s Office in the West Pasco Judicial Center along with partner, Bob Warms. We work at the Information Desk in the front of the building, just inside security and when Deputy Cheryl Hazelton and her canine (K-9) partner, Dobies, came in, we had a “front row” demonstration of how those two partners work together. What a treat.
Before the doors opened for the day, Deputy Hazelton introduced her partner to us and said Dobies is a “Meth Lab.” Of course, it was a play on words for a very real job they perform for Pasco County.
Deputy Hazelton told us eighteen-month-old, Dobies, a Black Labrador Retriever, was a Christmas present this year and she is in training. Both partners were full of energy and smiles. Dobies warmed up a bit by chasing and retrieving a ball thrown by her partner down the hallway several times before the doors opened and they got down to business.
A class from a local high school was coming to the courthouse for a tour and the drug sniffing dog was part of that experience. Another part was a visit to Judge Declan Mansfield’s courtroom. In fact, Judge Mansfield came down and watched as the kids filed in through security before being introduced to him.
I’ve been to several K-9 demonstrations at writer’s conventions that were put on by FDLE agents and I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy of Pasco County and have seen the various ways canines help officers of the law, but today’s experience had a little more of a personal touch, and especially because it was unexpected.
The Canine Unit is assigned to patrol sectors and assist uniform operations by responding to routine calls for service when they are not providing search assistance. Canines are trained for area searches, article searches, and evidence recovery, building searches, tracking criminal suspects, locating missing persons, narcotics and bomb detection. The Canine Unit is also involved in public education, performing demonstrations of canine ability and uses to Pasco citizens.
There are several myths and misconceptions about K-9s, says Jim Weiss. One is that K-9s are kept in kennels. Actually, they are kept in their handler’s homes, but trained in a Sheriff’s training class.
Another misconception is that K-9s can’t pick up scents from metal objects, concrete or water. Not true.
The bite sleeve isn’t being used as much as it used to. Now, full body bite suits have been found to be more natural, because the dogs learn they can bite anywhere.
Myth: K-9s are only good for five years. Pasco County generally gets seven to eight years’ work out of their dogs before they retire them.
Myth: K-9s are robots. Like people, dogs have good days and bad days. Unsuccessful searches can happen to both dog and handler.
Myth: K-9s are expensive. Actually many K-9 programs have a lot of community support that keeps the costs down. Area veterinarians often provide the dogs treatment at their own expense. Charity fundraisers help with costs, as do community leaders. Many people are supportive.
Most of the dogs in the Canine Unit are German shepherds, but there is a bloodhound also, along with Dobies. These dogs risk their lives every day, just like their human partners. I tip my hat to these officers, both human and canine. Their motto: “We serve as one.”
Below is a photo of Dobies at the security scanner.
Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set primarily in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.