New K-9 deputies training in Putnam
ELEANOR, W.Va. -- Putnam County Sheriff's Department Deputy Brian Donohoe stood in an empty hallway at George Washington Middle School, straining against the long black leash that connected him to his new partner.
"Get the bird," Donohoe shouted, and Dare, a 3-year-old German Shepherd, bounded toward a row of lockers lining the wall.
"He doesn't hesitate," said PCSD Cpl. Will Jordan, watching as Dare leapt toward a locker and tried to retrieve what was inside.
"He'd flip somebody's car over," said fellow Deputy Steve Martin, laughing.
The "bird" Dare was ordered to find was a rolled towel scented with narcotics, an early training exercise for the "green" police dog.
Dare and two other German Shepherds, Dux and Eli, will join the sheriff's department once they've been certified as police dogs. They'll be the first dogs the department has had since 2010, when it retired its last dog, Flint.
Jason Cooper, owner of Precision K-9 Services in Scott Depot, has been providing and training police dogs for area law enforcement offices with his wife, Angie, since shortly after the couple met in 1996.
The Coopers, along with Sgt. Shane Shamblin, will help train the three dogs.
Dare and Dux, a 1 1/2-year-old German Shepherd who will become Deputy Martin's dog, have just started training to become "dual purpose" K-9s. The two will be trained to track and apprehend suspects, as well as sniff out narcotics. The third dog, 1 1/2-year-old Eli, will serve strictly as a narcotics dog with his future handler Jordan, the county's school resource officer.
"I'll be taking him into the schools every day," Jordan said. "I've been an officer working with all 23 schools in the county for 13 years. When you build a rapport with the teachers, with administrators -- I can come in unannounced any day.
"That's the kind of relationship we want to have with the community, with the teachers, with the board of education," he said. "I hope I never find anything, but it's just a great tool, knowing that we can come in any time and search."
A few of the schools in the county went unsearched last year, according to Jordan. That's something he hopes will change now that he has a dog available to perform random searches. Jordan and Eli will partner up on July 15, and Eli will become a certified narcotics dog before the start of the coming school year.
"It's not about seeing how many kids we can throw in jail. It's about keeping them honest," Jordan said.
Justice, Jordan's last dog, died four years ago after working alongside Jordan for eight years. The department had already retired two other dogs, so after Justice and Flint stopped working the department began using dogs from other area law enforcement agencies, including the Hurricane Police Department, the Nitro Police Department and the West Virginia State Police.
For Jordan, the chance to have another narcotics dog is also the chance to have another companion like Justice. Once each dog becomes part of the sheriff's department's K-9 unit, they will work and live with their handlers.
"I can't wait," Jordan said. "I had Justice for nine years; I had him since he was 9 months old, and I watched him grow and mature, just like you would watch your own child. You get to know your dog, just like you get to know your children."
Shamblin, who was Flint's handler, said his former partner, who is now 12 years old and three-years retired, was a fixture in schools across the county. According to Shamblin, his friend and partner was as useful in teaching the community as he was in combating crime.
"Flint is the best dog on the face of this earth," Shamblin said. "The thing that made Flint special is that he was active in the community; he did tons of demonstrations with kids. I know kids who have pictures of Flint hanging on their wall. Not only was he active within the department, but people in the community knew him, too."
Dare, Dux and Eli will eventually learn to be "passive indicators" when they uncover narcotics, and will sit when they find drugs. Both Dare and Dux will also be trained to follow "raff," which are skin particles left behind by a suspect fleeing on foot.
According to Cooper, the three dogs that Precision K-9 Services chose for the sheriff's department were high-energy, restless dogs that would make difficult household pets and therefore were ideal police dogs.
"The perfect police dog is one that's tearing up the house and terrorizing the kids," Cooper said. "They're pretty high-strung; they have a lot of attitude and drive."
Cooper said he and his wife vetted dozens of dogs before finding Dare, the oldest and last dog that Precision K-9 Services acquired for the department. In the end, Cooper chose between two dogs offered to him by a vendor in Columbus -- a Belgian Malinois and a German Shepherd.
"The Malinois was a pretty good dog, but Dare was better," Cooper said.
The dogs are in the earliest stages of training, and Dare and Dux won't be ready for their certification until September. Both dogs will be given to Martin and Donohoe at the end of July, and those two and Eli will be outfitted with vests to identify them as officers of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5100.