Sure, there’s bragging rights involved for teams that win the police dog competition held in Temecula every year, officers involved in the event said Saturday.
But more importantly, it’s a chance to correct misconceptions people may have about police dogs and to showcase the bond between the furry creatures and their human partners.
“We work with these dogs, we live with these dogs —- they are our best friends,” said Sgt. Coby Webb, K-9 supervisor for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which holds the competition, now in its 14th year. “It’s so fun to show the public the bond between the handler and the dog, so they can see the partnership.”
The two-day competition began Friday and culminated Saturday at Harveston Community Park in Temecula. It attracted K-9 units from more than 30 law enforcement agencies across the region.
The teams are put to the test —- given building, luggage, vehicle and narcotics searches. Friday’s trials, which included narcotics searches, were closed to the public.
On Saturday, the teams competed in a variety of drills testing obedience and agility as a crowd of about 250 people watched from the sidelines.
“This is like, the best time of my life,” said 25-year-old Pacific Beach resident Michael Dolan, who has autism and uses a retired police dog as a companion animal. “I love shepherd dogs, and how beautiful, loyal and noble they are.”
The dogs competing in the trials can sense this is no ordinary day, Webb said.
“They are just like kids,” she said of the dogs. “Sometimes, it’s like, ‘Oh, I forgot my routine.’ And other times it’s like, ‘I got this down.’”
Motioning toward a dog and its partner strutting their stuff on the field, Webb pointed out how the officer’s head was held high, his back was straight, and his arms were swinging.
“The handlers are having just as much fun as the dogs are,” she said.
Riverside County Deputy Kevin Brooks, a member of the K-9 unit, said the event helps illustrate that police dogs are not always vicious.
“We hope to show that the dogs are under control, that they are our partners and not just mean animals,” Brooks said.
And German shepherds are not the only dogs that serve the badge. There are bloodhounds, Labradors and other shepherd breeds in the mix, he said.
Typically, a dog might train several years before it is qualified to serve with the police. Not all canine candidates make it to the field, either.
For the dogs that make the cut, and the officers chosen to join the K-9 unit, considered by many to be an elite squad because they are the first-responders to serious crime scenes, the partnerships are filled with love and trust, Brooks said.
“I love it,” said Brooks, whose partner is Roxy, a 7-year-old Belgian malinois.
“I love having her in the car with me.”
For more information about the event or the Sheriff’s Department’s canine teams, visit http://www.rsok9trials.com
By JENNIFER KABBANY