Sacramento police dog "Bodie" latches onto an officer's decoy training sleeve during a training exercise last week in Discovery Park. West Sacramento's two K-9 teams join other teams in the Sacramento region for regular training, both in West Sacramento and in other parts of the region. They train both outdoors and inside structures.
Photo by ERIC HARDING www.ebhar-ding.com
By Steve Marschke News-Ledger Editor
West Sacramento police dogs “Zar” and “Chance” will have
a chance to show off their skills in competition on Saturday, and you’re
invited to watch.
West Sacramento K-9 officer Roger Kinney
(Zar’s partner) is chief organizer of the “2011 Lawdogs Challenge,” to be held
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at River City High. Those who show up around 11-1 can
check out demonstrations from local firefighters and SWAT teams (including a
“Peacekeeper” armored vehicle) as well as U.S. Marine vehicles. A veterinary
doctor can answer your questions about dog health. The “protection” element of
the day’s dog team competition is scheduled for about 12:30-1.
Kinney and fellow West Sac K-9 officer Dave
Stallions are part of the squad that is setting up the competition, so they
will only enter the events unofficially. But visiting teams from all over will
face a variety of challenges, beginning with a closed event on Friday evening.
The Friday night part of the competition will
test the ability of trained dogs to find hidden narcotics.
“We’re going to have basically a Greyhound
bus with five ‘finds’ hidden on it, and each dog will have to find all five
finds within a time limit,” said Kinney.
Officer Roger Kinney with his partner Zar (at left), and Officer Dave Stallions with Chance
Photo by ERIC HARDING
Saturday will find the dogs and their human
partners dealing with other challenges, like obstacle courses and protection
from foam-padded “bad guys.”
“There are things the dogs will have to go
through and jump over,” said Kinney. “They’re judged not only on whether they
do it, which they should, but whether they touch equipment they’re not supposed
And there may be some intentional
distractions during the competition, designed to test the dogs’ discipline and
Zar – Kinney’s canine partner – is smaller
than some people would expect.
“Zar is a five-year old Dutch Shepherd,” said
Kinney. “A lady in Hollywood
bought him when he was three months old, and he kept nipping her. So she had
him neutered, but he still nipped, and she decided she couldn’t keep him. But
he passed all 13 of our tests.”
Being a K-9 officer is a responsibility that
doesn’t end when the team’s shift comes to a conclusion.
“He lives at home, hangs out on my couch,
plays with my kids – he’s probably the best-disposed animal of the 24 dogs we
train with,” Kinney told the News-Ledger.
When triggered, he can be “leaning out the
car window snarling and frothing at the mouth,” said Kinney, but when gently
introduced to strangers – including classrooms full of kids – “he often rolls
over on his back.”
“After meeting him, people often ask, ‘are
you sure he’s a police dog?” said Kinney.
But Zar is smart and may live longer than
some of his larger cousins such as German shepherds. And he has a lot of
presence for a 55-pounder.
“He had one (suspect) try to crush his head
and another was beating him with a stick – it tore off his dew claw and opened
his head. It looked real bad, but he was all right. Afterward, the guy was
saying that this must have been a 110-pound dog.”
Zar is trained to find hiding suspects, drugs, and anything that people have recently
Once, last year, a fleeing suspect jumped
into a West Sacramento waterway trying to
escape, and Zar was turned loose to find the man. Zar was seen swimming with
something with a “Batman” emblem in his mouth. Kinney thought the dog was
shirking his duty, and told him to get back to work. Zar picked up the item
again. It turned out that Zar had latched on to the Batman-style underwear worn
by the deceased suspect, who was just underwater. The man had apparently broken
his neck diving into shallow water.
Sacramento police officer Steve Thomsen has a word with his dog, "Crash." Police dogs are owned by the police agency, but cared for by their human partners. Some jurisdictions -- like West Sacramento -- have made it legal for an injured police dog to be transported to a veterinary facility by local ambulance.
Photo by ERIC HARDING
The other local police dog, “Chance,” is
specially trained to find explosives with partner Dave Stallions.
The group regularly trains with other
regional K-9 teams, practicing their skills in parks and buildings around the Sacramento area.
You can find more information on the local
K-9 squad at www.wsk9.org or on Facebook.