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From puppies to police officers

MyNBC 5 5/10/2019
a dog that is lying down and looking at the camera: Training Ozzy © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. Training Ozzy

Cpl. David Dewey opened his cruiser door, gave a little whistle and said, “Come on.”

Ozzy, a one-year-old Belgium Malinois, leaped out of the car and trotted next to Dewey toward the Colchester Police Station.

Ozzy is a K-9 officer in training for the Colchester, Vermont Police Department.

He is in a class of five Vermont K-9’s. All five started their lessons with drug school and are now certified in drug detection. They can sniff out the smallest amount of drugs just about anywhere.

They are all now in phase two. This is where Ozzy and the others get used to their new work surroundings. They get to know most of their human co-workers and learn what it’s like to go home with their handlers at the end of the day.

According to the Vermont Canine Association, there are about 50 Vermont teams, and most, if not all, of the dogs live with their handlers.

It’s a balance between work life and home life for the dogs.

Dewey said, “He lives at home with us. But first and foremost he's a police dog, he's a working dog.” He went on to say, “I'm OK if he's curious, he's a dog you can't really take that out of him. But when I say leave it, you leave it,”

Dewey’s family, his wife Christine and kids Sam, 15 and Mae, 13, adore Ozzy.

“I call him our flying monkey dog because he is just so full of energy,” Christine Dewey said. But she added, “If you're sitting on the couch and he's done with playing, he'll just come over and snuggle and that's really sweet.”

That’s the fine line K-9 handlers like Dewey walk.

They need their dogs to be tough in the field and at work, but sweet and friendly at home and when there is no danger. That allows the dogs to also go to community events.

Dewey explained. “He (Ozzy) hasn't learned this yet in his training, but it's like a light switch. When you need to turn the light on and it's time to work, time to track, time to find drugs, time to do whatever, he is 100 percent. He’ll be ready to go. But then if the switch is off, it's time to hang out on the couch, time to play in the office with my coworkers, and that's fine, too.”

K9s do cost police departments a lot of money. Colchester Lt. Peter Hull says it’s thousands of dollars.

If the department buys the dog, that alone can cost more than $1000.

Then there are vet bills, food, and a specialized cruiser. Also, the handler, a fully trained police officer is mostly out of the loop for at least six months during training. That means overtime shifts for other officers. Though Lt. Hull says it’s great public relations with the community, and the dogs can do amazing work.

“Whether it's looking for a lost child, or a person with some emotional disabilities or intellectual disabilities who may be missing, just one successful event like that is worth the investment,” Lt. Hull said. “He’s (Ozzy) an officer, and we invest in our officers.”

For about six more weeks the dogs do not go through formal training. They go out with their handlers and practice their drug detection skills, and obedience.

Two dogs in Ozzy’s class have found drugs. Bully who works with Officer Eugene Baccaglini and Ringo who works with Officer Mike Malinowski

Dewey throws toys for Ozzy in the backyard for long periods of time. When Ozzy gets tired, Dewey pushes him just a little more. Dewey is training Ozzy like an elite athlete, because he knows what lies ahead for the dogs in the program.

Patrol School:

Patrol school is where the dogs will learn: tracking, evidence recovery, apprehending suspects, decoys, building searches, dealing with gunfire, agility and more.

It’s five months of intense work, that won’t end until Ozzy, and his K-9 class earn their badges in November.

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