After shots were fired by a passenger in a sports utility vehicle in downtown New Bern Saturday, Officer James Rowe with the New Bern Police Department K-9 Unit released his dog on the man.
The dog jumped through the window of the parked vehicle at the passenger, which drew a cheer from a crowd of onlookers gathered for one of several demonstrations by K-9 unit handlers as part of the MumFest 2009 festivities.
Rowe, senior handler and trainer for the K-9 unit, as well as Officer Thomas Carter demonstrated the obedience as well as the search and assistance abilities of Bak, a German shepherd from Czechoslovakia and Zorin, a Belgian Malinois.
In one demonstration, Bak searched four closed suitcases laid out in a row on the parking lot for marijuana. He scratches, barks and bites in the area where he has discovered drugs, Rowe said, as he is an “aggressive alert” dog trained to react that way.
In another simulation, Zorin, searched for one of the officers, who was hiding inside one of several large white boxes. Zorin trotted swiftly around the boxes, and then he barked and jumped on the box when he found the officer.
Then the crowd watched while Carter demonstrated how the dogs are trained in verbal and hand signals, commanding Zorin to sit, lie down and come. The verbal commands are issued in German, Carter said.
New Bern resident Owen Rose said the demonstration was an “awesome sight.”
The 7-year-old had stopped to watch the dogs with his parents after watching a man make balloon animals and the balancing and stunts of the Kenya Safari Acrobats.
He said the dogs’ abilities were “cool,” and that he was startled by the gunshot in the traffic stop demonstration.
“It would need to take a lot of training,” he said.
Claudia Rose commented that the traffic stop really showed the dog’s agility.
“We were just talking about the amount of training it takes, that these dogs go through with their handlers,” she said.
New Bern resident Mel Taylor had an opportunity to pet both Bak and Zorin after watching them demonstrate their abilities.
“They’re just beautiful dogs, highly trained and really good-natured,” she said. “I’ve got a soft spot for animals anyways, and I think it’s great that we’ve got such outstanding people protecting us in our police force and in our K-9 unit.”
By Laura Oleniacz