Glendale Police Officer Aaron Hamilton wrestled with Quwai and spun him around in a circle. Quwai gave a growl, his teeth bared, as he held on tight.
Hamilton laughed as Quwai von Mahner Berg, a 2-year-old German shepherd K-9 unit with the Glendale Police Department, demonstrated his playful side last week in front of a group of excited second and third graders at Valley View Elementary School in La Crescenta.
Hamilton and Quwai, with Officer Maibel Feeley and her K-9 partner, Yudy, a 4-year-old German shepherd, were guests at an assembly at the school. Valley View second grade teacher Lisa Jenks, who has been teaching her class about law enforcement and other public safety officials, invited them.
The class recently read the Caldecott award-winning book, “Officer Buckle & Gloria,” by author Peggy Rathmann. The book focuses on Officer Buckle, a policeman who teaches children safety tips, and his police dog Gloria, a jokester of a dog who wins the children’s hearts.
Because the children in Jenks’ class loved the book, they were open to learning about safety when Hamilton and Feeley came to the school, accompanied by their K-9 partners, Jenks said. She added that it’s important to help children get to know police officers in a positive way.
“It’s really nice to give [the kids] more knowledge about law enforcement and let their first experience be positive,” she said.
In addition to teaching the youths about not talking to strangers and other important safety tips at last week’s Valley View assembly, Hamilton and Feeley answered the children’s myriad questions and allowed them to interact with the dogs.
Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams is credited with bringing a K-9 program back to the city of Glendale in 2006, after 20 years without that type of program, according to information provided to the children in a baseball card format of both dogs.
Quwai and Yudy are two of the force’s four police dogs; one of the four is dedicated to narcotics enforcement only, Feeley said.
The dogs were born in Germany and “speak” only German, according to the cards. The department works with a police dog training facility in Germany to match up human police partners with the dogs based on the officers’ personalities, as well as the needs of the department.
Besides being working members of the police force — helping to catch criminals and sniff out evidence and drugs — the dogs enjoy time with their partners and with each other. They also attend weekly training groups when about 20 police dogs get together with their partners for a mix of training exercises and play.
Hamilton also said he gets on his bicycle and takes Quwai for long runs, which the dog loves.
Feeley told the children that Yudy loves to play fetch with tennis balls. Yudy also likes to roll over on her side and get belly rubs.
The dogs are bathed and groomed on a regular basis and live with their human partners, Feeley said.
Hamilton also demonstrated for the children how the partners become bonded. “He wants to work. He could run away and play if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to,” Hamilton said, as Quwai stayed close beside Hamilton as the two walked around the room.
The officers also told the children about a website, GlendaleK9.com, where the children and their parents can log on to learn about the K-9 program and donate or buy food, leashes and other items for the animals.
The police K-9 program is completely donation-funded, according to the website.
After the assembly, the children lined up in a parking area by the school to see the dogs and their partners’ patrol cars.
Catherine Ko, 7, said it was “great” to get to see and pet the dogs. “Their skin is very soft,” she added.
Noah Kluger, 8, said he thought the dogs were “really cute.”
But Eileen Eican, 7, was more impressed by the dogs’ ability to “catch the bad guys.”
Joseph Jang, 8, said it was “awesome” to learn about the police dogs.
“Maybe I’ll become a policeman someday. But if I do, I’ll be one with dogs,” Joseph said.
For Sara Schulz, 8, and her friend Hannah May, 7, the K-9 visit was “really awesome.”
“I’ve never met a K-9 dog in person before,” Sara said, adding, “And now I did.”