Canine units rely on community donations
Kootenai County law enforcement agencies with canine teams provide funding for essentials like food and veterinary bills, but operational expenses such as equipment and training comes from community support through fundraisers.
The Post Falls Police Department will hold its annual K-9 Golf Tournament Fundraiser Friday, July 19 at 9 a.m. at the Links Golf Course, 10623 N. Chase Road in Post Falls.
To learn more about the sheriff’s department K-9 unit and to donate, visit the agency’s Facebook page at Kcsheriff.com and click on K-9 Patrol Teams under the Operations tab.
Information on the city of Coeur d’Alene’s canine unit can be found at the police department’s website, Cdaid.org/police. Then click on K-9 Unit under the Divisions tab.
Ears perked, piercing eyes focused, nostrils flaring—Duco is a dog with a mission. His intensity is unmistakable.
Expertly trained and always on the move, the five-year-old Belgian Malinois may be relatively small in stature (under 70 pounds), but his responsibilities with the Post Falls Police Department are enormous.
Duco is among an elite class of dogs in Kootenai County that may not wear a badge, but live and breathe a life in law enforcement as they help to protect officers, bag bad guys and expedite police work.
It’s a job both handler and canine take very seriously.
From sniffing out narcotics, to tracking suspects and assisting officers with search and apprehension, canine cops have been making their mark in law enforcement in Kootenai County for several years.
At the PFPD, Sgt. Frank Bowne has led the canine unit since its inception in 2009 and is currently the handler of Duco, a valued member of the department since 2015.
Canine cops require hundreds of hours of rigorous never-ending training to stay at the top of their game, Bowne says. And the training works both ways.
“It won’t do any good if you send a (police) dog out if the officer at the other end of the leash doesn’t know what they’re doing,” says Bowne, who the canine cop instructor for the PFPD.
That’s why the connection between animal and cop is so critical. The match-making is a delicate task, Bowne adds.
“The hardest part is pairing a person with a dog because if the dog doesn’t like the officer or the officer doesn’t get along with the dog, you’ll never get that bond and you’ll have a mediocre team at best when you hit the streets,” he says.
When it comes to their four-legged partners, local canine officers take their work home with them.
“For me, and I imagine most handlers, the dogs stay focused even on days off,” Bowne says. “But there are days when the dog can hang out and just be a dog. A lot of these dogs have an ‘off’ button, but many don’t. It just depends on the dog.”
While it’s impossible to precisely quantify the significant contribution police dogs bring to local law enforcement, Bowne points out a canine’s keen nose saves countless man-hours and protects officers.
“Dogs can locate a suspect or clear a building much quicker and at much less risk to the officer,” he said. For example, statistics show that one canine team can save about 800 man-hours per year in searching and clearing buildings.
“And I can’t even tell you how much drugs we’ve gotten off the street, from meth, heroin, pot and cocaine,” Bowne says.
The high appreciation for police dogs is also evident at the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department, where canine handler Deputy Nathan Nelson teams up with nine-year-old Pogo, another Belgian Malinois.
Like Bowne, Nelson said the canine unit training is extensive. “We do 240 hours for patrol and another 160 hours for narcotics plus interdepartmental training every Wednesday to maintain and enhance our abilities,” Nelson said.
The professional bond between dog and officer is unique, Nelson says, and difficult to explain.
“We’re basically attached at the hip for 60 to 70 hours a week,” the deputy says. “Unless you’re a canine handler, it’s a relationship that’s hard for others to understand. We’ve got each other’s back.”
While Pogo is all business in the patrol car, the dog does relax a bit while off duty, Nelson says.
“He’s not necessarily a house dog, but he loves to roll on his back in the yard and he loves my kids,” the deputy says. “And when he’s not on patrol, there are times when he just enjoys being a dog.”