Saturday, February 7, 2009

METRO's K-9 Teams Win Top Awards

METRO's K-9 dog teams captured top honors at a recent regional competition that showcased the dogs' drug and bomb-detecting abilities, along with their obedience skills.
For the first time since METRO started its K-9 unit in 1998, METRO won two first-place awards and the highest honor, The Top Dog Team Award. Sponsored by the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association (NNDA), the competition last Friday pitted 70 dog teams from around the region, including Louisiana.
Officer Ted Armstrong and his dog Missy, a Belgium Malinois, captured three awards: First Place in Patrol, First Place in Explosives, and Top Dog Team Award.
Officer Chris Obenland and his dog Shadow, a Belgium Malinois, won Third Place in Patrol.
"It just happened to be mine and Missy's day that day," said Armstrong. "We just happened to be on. She was very quick, very fluid searching all the boxes and desk drawers. She was on the money."
A specialist in detecting explosives, Missy was off her leash when she and her handler walked into a large entertainment hall, cluttered with columns of boxes, suitcases, filing cabinets and desk drawers. Metal-legged chairs were stacked up, newspapers scattered around.
"They hide explosives out there. They give you five minutes to find as many explosives as you can," said Armstong. If the dog makes a false alert, the dog team is disqualified.
"There's so much stuff. We as humans can't tell what the dog is picking up on. Dogs could be overwhelmed," said Armstrong.
Missy wasn't. She detected five explosives - and then performed flawlessly in the Patrol competition, which tests obedience skills, off leash.
Armstrong and Missy made history by winning two First Place awards - the first time in the contest's history that a team has done that. By scoring high in two categories, Armstrong and Missy also received a trophy for the Top Dog Team Award.
Obenland and his dog, Shadow, won Third Place in Patrol after completing a five-minute routine - off the leash - that included Shadow walking right next to his handler, staying in a "down" position for two minutes, and apprehending a robbery suspect - along with a second, hidden suspect the team knew nothing about. Judges analyzed the handler's strategy in using his dog to help apprehend both suspects.
When a stray, black cat strutted by Shadow during the obedience competition, the well-trained canine didn't move a muscle.
"I just wanted to hug him and give him a pack of hot dogs. That was a very, very rewarding thing," said Obenland. "He normally likes to run after cats. It's natural for the dog to want to chase after them."
Both Armstrong and Obenland pointed out that METRO's entire K-9 unit is highly trained and skilled, and officers are always trading tips on how to best train their dogs.
"Our whole dog team could have won," said Armstrong.
Added Obenland: "Our dogs are phenomenal. We constantly get compliments by the instructors about how sharp our dogs are and how good they are each year. They improve each year."