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Deputies, dogs visit OTOW

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By Patricia Woodbury

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 The January meeting of the OTOW Community Patrol was very special as we had deputies from the K-9 Unit. Deputies Todd Winkler and Matt Hooper came with their dogs to tell us how the unit functions and show some of the techniques for which the dogs are trained.

There are eight members in the K-9 Unit and each member has a dog. The type of dog is a German shepherd. The K-9 Unit was formed in 1987 at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Money to purchase these dogs is provided by donors to the MCSO, as they cost $6,000, for which the donor gets to name the dog. The cost increases as it takes 480 hours of training with an additional continuing education for 16 hours a month, as well as daily training.

The dog’s sense of smell is its greatest attribute and certainly one of the requirements to be in the K-9 Unit. They also must be alert, not afraid of gun fire and have no health problems. They come to the team to be trained and training starts with basic obedience. The next training is built off of the obedience training. Most of the commands given to the dogs are in the German language and they also respond to hand signals. K-9 dog’s tenure is about 8-9 years.

Selection of the handler for these dogs is important too. The deputy must have had three years as a patrolman. He/she must have the ability to make sound decisions, be self-motivated and does not need a lot of supervision. Because of the nature of the functions of the K-9 unit, the deputy must pass rigorous physical tests to prove their capability. The deputy’s home and family are assessed to see if it is a good fit for the dog in that the dog actually will live in the deputy’ home with the family.

Deputy Winkler narrated and Deputy Hooper gave the commands to Rambo, a 2 ½ year old German shepherd to seek out drugs that were planted in the meeting room. When Rambo found the drugs he sat down. He was rewarded with a favorite toy. Deputy Winkler acted as the predator and wore a very padded arm while Deputy Hooper gave Rambo the command to attack.

The Unit always has a dog out on the road in the county in case they are needed to assist with a robbery or a missing person.