FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER
JUNE 15, 2011
By Steve Marschke
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.
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 to.”
And there may be some intentional distractions during the competition, designed to test the dogs’ discipline and concentration.
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 dropped.
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.
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.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2011