Eldo heard about a special demonstration going on at Elkhart Memorial High School. It was a canine demonstration of police work involving handlers and their dogs from 26 police departments all over the midwest--Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri, to name a few. The officer/handlers came with their dogs as part of a training session which culminated in the free demonstration at the high school and awards given to two retiring police dogs and their handlers.
The K-9 units have changed over the years from being trained to be strictly attack and narcotics seeking dogs, searching for missing persons and many other police duty dogs to more civilized, friendly public servants with multi-faceted personalities--we're talking about the dogs here :-) -- because that's what the public needs and wants to see. But the public's perception of police dogs perhaps remains still one based on a just a little bit of fear? Sparky doesn't know about you, but when she sees a German Shepard police dog barking its head off inside the car, she thinks the dog can't wait to get out and attack the first person it sees! The dogs look scary, especially when they are barking their heads off in the officer's car waiting to be put to work, and the perception is probably reinforced a little by signs like this:
red on the window along with "CAUTION Police K-9". Consider yourself warned!
Did you know it takes 3 years to become a dog trainer for the police department? That it takes 6 years to become a master trainer? The dogs think their duties are play and the supreme reward for doing a great job is a tennis ball which gets returned to its handler with a big slobbery glob of drool each time they are rewarded. UGH!
We saw how the dogs track...one of the dogs went down the football field searching for a very specific scent he was trained for, despite a football field that had seen a LOT of action during the day. Think of all the smells on that football field in an average high school day! We saw the dogs go after purse snatching muggers who attacked an old lady (a cop dressed up as a grandma), we saw them take down the suspect, and we THOUGHT we saw a dog open the back door of the police car and come running after the bad guy! It turns out that the police officer has a release button on his belt that opens the car door and lets the dog out.
At one point during the demonstration, word came out over the loudspeaker that officers were needed to respond to a situation out on County Road 19. Several officers left the field, ran to their cars and took off out of the parking lot, sirens going, lights flashing. We wondered what was up in the county? The program resumed and a few minutes later, the "suspect" that the officers were called out to apprehend, was driving a car back into the football stadium and onto the track! It was a setup! But it was cool to see the traffic stop, three guys in the car dressed in fat, padded Michelin Man type suits so the dogs teeth wouldn't hurt them. Two guys got out running and the dogs went after them and brought them down to the ground. The third "suspect" refused to get out of the car, but the dog dragged him out! Here the officers are getting ready to send out the dogs as one of the suspects jumps out of the car and starts running away. Not for long!
We saw how the dogs sniff out drugs and find them on suspects. When they have identified someone having narcotics hidden on themselves, the dogs sit down right in front of the person.
To counteract the general public's perception, trainers and handlers are wanting the general public to know that the dogs are working for THEM, to keep them safe, and when they are not working, they are VERY friendly and approachable. By having the demonstration, the general public can appreciate the skills and benefits working police dogs have to offer. It was eye opening to see these dogs being cuddled by little toddlers, petted and fawned over by LOTS of little kids and not a single gr-r-r-r in response. And we sure did appreciate their skills after seeing this demonstration!
This dog is posing for a photo at the end of the show with the little girl by waiting for a gentleman to throw him a big yellow tennis ball, what the dogs work for as a reward. We didn't see one treat being given out for good work, it was always the yellow tennis ball! Bet they get spoiled at home!
It was a very interesting program and the first time Elkhart has done a demonstration for the public. At the end of the awards for the retiring dogs and the demonstrations of the K-9's in action, they had a "meet and greet" down on the field. Meet the handlers, meet and greet the dogs. The dogs even gave kisses to the little kids who came up to pet them. The officers were passing out "trading cards", stickers and the kid were lovin' it. Sparky got a trading card for the blog.
It was GREAT! We REALLY enjoyed the program. Hope they do it again next year!