Bark is bigger than their bite |

Bark is bigger than their bite

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” When the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office received a call that a 12-year-old girl had run away from the foster home she was living at, they called in the dogs.

They knew that it was a job specifically for the K-9 unit of Cpl. Josh Craine and his partner, a 5-year-old German shepherd named Drogen.

The runaway girl had a history of mental illness and it was the middle of winter, but Drogen sniffed her out before things got too bad.

“We found her before she became hypothermic,” Craine said.

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According to K-9 Sgt. Jim Schuckers, they found her just in time.

“If the dog wouldn’t have found her within 15 minutes of when he did, she would have been dead,” Schuckers said.

Just another day at the office for Craine and Drogen. And it’s just one aspect of how effective the dogs can be and why they are such an asset for the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit has only been around for about three years. Drogen and another German shepherd named Ejon were the first two dogs to be part of the team. But, in January the department received two new German shepherds; A 26-month-old named Bak, and a 20-month-old named Falcos.

The dogs are from Czechoslovakia. Their names are shortened versions of their native Czechoslovakian names.

According to Schuckers, Garfield County chooses dual purpose dogs specifically trained in areas of narcotic detection and patrol work, which covers tracking people and subduing an aggressive suspect.

According to Craine, Drogen, the oldest of the four dogs, has found everything from a tiny amount the drug ecstasy, to 30 pounds of marijuana stashed in a home. But he’s also found lost individuals like the 12-year-old girl.

“We use them for all kinds of things,” Craine said. “It’s just whatever we are applying them for. I think they are very useful.”

While Schuckers agreed that the dogs are a useful tool for the Sheriff’s Office, he said that it’s hard to measure how useful they are. But he said when it comes to subduing an aggressive individual, the dogs often work better than a gun.

“It’s surprising just how few people are afraid of guns,” Schuckers said. “But they are afraid of the dog.”

It may be difficult to measure their effectiveness, but according to Schuckers, the dog’s presence alone has proved ” on more than one occasion ” to be more effective than the guns on their hips.

“We document hundreds of calls each year where we use the dogs,” Schuckers said. “So far, the presence has worked and we have never had to have a dog bite a suspect, or anything like that.”

The fact that just having the dogs on scene will deter a suspect from getting out of control is enough for Schuckers and Craine to say that they think the dogs are worth their weight in gold.

“The fact that we don’t have to take it to the next step (and use a weapon) makes us very happy,” Schuckers said. “We will keep that card as long as we can.”

Schuckers, who is Falcos’ handler, said that the two newbies aren’t yet certified, but he expects them to be by June. It takes between eight and 12 weeks of full-time training for them to become certified. The Sheriff’s Office certifies each dog twice every year. Once through their own certification process which is set by the Colorado Police Canine Association and once through a National Police Canine Association. Both the handler and the dog must be certified as a team.

While, Falcos and Bak are the youngsters on the block, they are looking to be just like Drogen and Ejon one day. And Schuckers and Craine are looking to remain with them for as long as they can.

“It’s a blast working with them,” Craine said.

Schuckers said that there is a list of deputies waiting for an opening on one of the K-9 units. Everyone wants to work with a dog.

“It’s fun,” Schuckers said. “It’s a lot of extra work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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