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Wed, Nov. 13

Blog: What Osama bin Laden's capture and Prescott Valley have in common: some savvy police dogs

Prescott Valley Animal Control Officer Robin Petrovsky mugs with the recently retired Joey. <br>Photo by Heidi Dahms Foster

Prescott Valley Animal Control Officer Robin Petrovsky mugs with the recently retired Joey. <br>Photo by Heidi Dahms Foster

Buried in all the stories about the killing of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was this: a bomb-sniffing dog was among the soldiers lowered from a Black Hawk helicopter into bin Laden's hideout.

According to a Fox News report, the bomb-sniffing dog was attached to a SEAL team member for the descent.

I know these dogs wear ballistic body armor and other protective gear, but I didn't know that the military equips them with infrared night sight cameras that can provide feedback to troops and protect them from potential ambushes.

The article stated that there are currently 600 such dogs serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It quotes Gen. David Petraeus, who will soon be the new CIA director, saying the dogs offer a distinctive service that cannot be replicated by man or machine.

"By all measures of performance, their yield outperforms any asset we have in our industry," he said.

The article further states that these war dogs are trained to find enemies hiding in buildings, and to attack anyone carrying a weapon, and stop fleeing suspects, many of the skills our own police dogs know.

Prescott Valley welcomed its first police K-9, Qwest, in 2003. The dog came from the Czech Republic, where trainer Andreas Muller selected him for the Zauberberg K-9 Academy in McNeal, Arizona.

Qwest, so named because Qwest Communications, through its Triple Nine Foundation to aid law enforcement agencies, paid part of the dog's purchase price, served the Prescott Valley Police Dept. until his retirement in 2007.

Officer Pereda and Qwest had their own bumps in the road. Qwest bit a woman outside Pereda's home in StoneRidge in 2006, sending her to the hospital, where she was treated and released. The dog underwent two evaluations after the incident, after which police professionals determined he was social and properly trained. Prescott Valley Police then placed the team back in service. Pereda completed additional training with Qwest, and the two continued to serve the community.

Qwest died this past March at nearly 10, when veterinarians had to euthanize him because of numerous health problems. During his years of service, police said, Qwest was responsible for the seizure of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of illegal drugs and drug proceeds including vehicles, guns, cash and property.

I admire Officer Pereda for working through his difficulties with Qwest and continuing to serve with his K-9 partner. While police K9's must have stable temperaments, these are not your average house dogs.

Police and military K-9's, as Gen. Patraeus said, have skills that can be found nowhere else. The dogs must possess a number of personality traits that cause them to excel at their jobs. Chief among them is a very high play drive, which translates "obsessed." These are not "easy dogs." I think the closest I can come to describing it is what I've seen in Border Collie herding dogs. Show them a group of anything and they will immediately attempt to gather it up and move it along.

I'm pretty impressed with the officers who make their K-9's part of their family after they retire, because while the animals must slow down, I don't think they ever become the average "couch potato!"

The most recent PV K-9 retiree is Paul Hines' Joey, who will live out his golden years with the Hines family. I well remember Joey's favorite toy, a non-descript figure made of canvas, which he got to play with after he did his job. I used to amuse myself trying to take it away from him. Joey would pull back so hard that if I didn't let go, I think he would have dislocated my shoulder. God help Paul if he ever loses that toy.

Prescott Valley has continued to grow and mature its K-9 program, with the help of a very generous Prescott woman who set up a police dog fund with the Yavapai Community Foundation. PVPD now has three K-9 teams - Officer Hines now works with Kio, who came to the department in January at the age of 18 mos. Kio, a beautiful black German Shepherd, is certified in narcotics detection and patrol. "Ike" is Officer Dave McNally's K-9 partner. Ike is a Belgian Malinois who is also certified in narcotics detection and patrol. Officer Keven O'Hagan partners with Bojar (pronounced "BO-gar"), a Czech Shepherd certified in explosives ordinance detection (EOD) and patrol. Bojar is the only EOD certified dog in northern Arizona.

Because of their skills, Prescott Valley K-9's are often in demand to assist other law enforcement agencies in the state. But it helps to remember that it's the team of handler and dog that is crucial, because a great handler can help these driven dogs attain their fullest potential.

Prescott Valley will again host the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association's annual conference and training event July 25-28. Nearly 100 K-9's and their handlers will descend on the town for training seminars and testing. They will end the week with a spectacular demonstration at Tim's Toyota Center on July 26 from 5:30 to 9 p.m., where people get a first hand view of the dogs demonstrating drug detection, criminal takedowns and more. I'll let you know more particulars as the date approaches.

Suffice it to say that Prescott Valley is a pretty safe place to be during that week!

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