Rifle K-9 officer Tulo wins certification
RIFLE — He prefers a ball to a bullet, but he’s very aware of his important job with the Rifle Police Department and his special relationship with Officer Garrett Duncan.
Tulo, a 6-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, who is trained and certified as a scent detection dog who sniffs out drugs when Duncan makes contact with a driver or when assisting other officers in situations that raise the suspicion of illegal drug activity.
“I got him in 2008 when he was a puppy and I trained with him,” Duncan said. “The chief at the time (Daryl Meisner) thought he would be productive in the community, so we went to a two-week handler’s course in Denver in 2010.”
Tulo is now certified with the National Police Canine Association and has been used to help the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team.
Duncan, who has been with the Rifle Police Department for nine and a half years, brings Tulo to work with him every day. The canine has a crate in the back of the Police Department, where he hangs out with his favorite toy — a yellow rubber ball.
When he’s working, he also has a specially made crate that fits in the back of Duncan’s patrol car.
If Duncan makes a traffic stop and suspects there may be narcotics in the vehicle, Tulo goes to work.
“He gives me a body response if he smells something,” Duncan. “He isn’t going for the drugs, he’s going for the odor. Then it’s my job to find them. But I trust him 150 percent. We work as a team.”
If he hits on a scent, Tulo will sit down and look at Duncan.
“Take a bowl of spaghetti,” Duncan explained. “We would just smell a bowl of spaghetti, but he can smell the mushrooms, the peppers or the onions all separately. His nose is that sensitive.”
Tulo is trained to detect the scent of drugs including methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and marijuana.
And although pot is now legal in Colorado, Duncan said it would not be beneficial to “untrain” Tulo to sniff for it.
“It’s still helpful because it’s only a small amount of marijuana that’ s legal,” Duncan said.
And it’s still illegal for anyone younger than 21 to possess marijuana.
“With marijuana being legalized, we’ve seen an uptick in kids getting caught,” Duncan said. “The biggest change is that I always ask if there is any marijuana in the car.”
Tulo goes through about 16 hours of maintenance training per month and Duncan arranges mock traffic stops to keep up on his skills.
Duncan even uses German words for commands so the dog does not get confused if someone else uses the English word.
“He’s got great demeanor and a great attitude,” Duncan said. “Everybody at the Police Department loves him. They like to play with him.”
At the end of the work day, Tulo goes home with Duncan and resumes normal dog activities.
“He gets treated like everybody else at home,” Duncan said, throwing Tulo’s ball for him.
And what does the name “Tulo” mean?
“I’m a huge Rockies fan,” Duncan said with a smile. “‘Tulo’ is short for their shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki.”
With the combo of Tulo to Duncan, druggies have no chance.
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The city of Rifle plans to allocate grant funding for improvements to Railroad Avenue and Third Street.