NORTH BEND, Ore. – Nine-year old Black Lab Gracie is an old pro at searching for drugs.
She’s been with the North Bend Police Department since 2001, and is trained to detect narcotics in almost any situation.
But she and her handler Mike Olson are always training, to stay on top of their game.
All this week Gracie and Olson are joining other police K9 handlers from departments across the state who have come to train and learn with their dogs.
“We’ve got approximately 10 dogs here, different types, narcotics, search and rescue. We have Malinois , German Shepherds, Labradors, and also two Blood Hounds,” says North Bend Police Officer Bill Downing.
Chris Aycock is a Senior Master Instructor with the American Society of Canine Trainers, he travels around the nation, training K9′s and their handlers, in everything from narcotics tracking to search and rescue.
“There’s three main classes, survival, armed encounter survival, as well as an advancement for tracking and an advancement for narcotic,” says Aycock.
During the week, the handlers and K9′s have used trails, cars, and abandoned buildings to simulate real-life scenarios, including searching for drugs.
During the training, narcotics officers place narc bags in areas throughout buildings so that K9′s can train to search for drugs efficiently.
“It keeps the dogs proficient. We hide narcotics in different areas, ventilation, places that somebody would hide narcotics, simulating a house or a building, as well as vehicles,” says Downing.
Part of the training involves using officer involved situations that have actually happened.
“We’re taking scenarios that have played out across the nation, where K9 officers have been involved in shootings. we’re mimicking them in this situation so that the handlers can be taught how to run through them and what had gone wrong and how to avoid them,” says Aycock.
Downing adds, “This right here puts the fear factor in, lots of people can become complacent, this keeps you out of that complacency.”
And that’s a lesson that even an old pro like Gracie needs to study up on, to keep them one step ahead of the bad guys.