This City’s Police Dog Plays Big Role in Rescuing Lost Hikers

Dogs have their place in our society. Do we fully appreciate how much they contribute to our well-being? Dogs serve as our housepets who keep us company and entertain us now and then. They’re loyal and faithful companions who also serve as guard dogs and protectors. They warn us when there is a stranger at the door. They keep a watchful eye out to protect their families from harm. They do so much for mankind. Dogs even serve vital roles in helping professions as seeing-eye dogs, help for the hearing impaired, emotional support dogs, rescue dogs, and more. Dogs even fill the role of police officer in K9 units.

The story of Rocko

We’re reminded of how much dogs give by a story shared by station WDBJ of Galax. Rocko is a police dog for the city of Galax. The K-9 unit is the partner of his handler, Sargeant Chris Hines. When three hikers got lost in the mines at Iron Ridge, he was dispatched with Hines to go in search of the missing trio. Rocko was purchased by the city for a cost of $20,000. The dog was partnered with Hines in a training program that lasted 8 weeks before he was officially allowed to become a member of the police force. The two work together every day on the job and the dog is there to provide specialized support for officers, thanks to a thorough training program that helped prepare him. Rocko is an expert tracker with the ability to chase down suspects or search for missing persons.

How Rocko became the hero of the town

After the hikers were reported missing, one of the hikers’ shoes was presented to his keen nose. He obtained the scent quickly then began his job to detect any trace of her trail. Amazingly, Rocko was able to pick up the girl’s scent and follow it directly to the place where she was at. He led first responders to the edge of the mines. Had it not been for Rocko and his special talents, first responders would not have known where to start their search for the missing hikers. The searchers found all three women quickly and brought them back to safety. The women were lost in a ventilation shaft. They had air to breathe and remarkably, a cell phone signal. They didn’t know their exact location but Rocko sniffed them out.

Special training for K9 units

Dogs that serve in police departments undergo stringent training before they are certified as being fit for active duty. Officers designated as handlers also receive special training with the dog to ensure that the pair work effectively together as a team. According to the National Police Dog Foundation, Dogs selected for K9 units receive a variety of specialized areas of performance training. These include obedience, tracking, agility, search for evidence, open areas, and building searches. Some receive exceptional training in key areas of law enforcement, including, but not limited to dead body detection, scent discrimination, explosives or narcotics detection, finding sick elderly, or lost children. The most common response to identifying explosives is to lay near the object to signal its whereabouts. The handler is trained to read the signals that the dog provides. This is why training for the handler and K9 unit together is essential.

Types of dogs and cost for law enforcement

Dogs trained for patrol work, tracking, detection, or other specialties for law enforcement can cost between $12,000 to $20,000, depending on the scope of the training program. Some breeds are preferred over others for their keen sense of smell, intelligence, and agility. These include German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Some other less commonly used dog needs include Bouvier de Flandres, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers.

K9 Officer training

According to the Criminal Justice Degree Schools Website, officers who are paired with K9 police dog must also go through intensive training. First, they must pass the requirements for eligibility to apply. Officers must be on the force for the amount of time required per state. These requirements vary from one state to another. They must show proof of the education and/or experience to become a vetted police officer. They must be a member of law enforcement, pass a background investigation including fingerprinting and take and pass a polygraph test.

Officers must also pass a series of physical fitness tests including a medical exam, to through an interview process, apply for a K9 officer position, and receive on-the-job training. On top of this, officers must have completed high school and received a degree in criminal justice or a related field in some states. Officers must also have experience handling dogs and be comfortable working with them.

Final thoughts

Police dogs are tremendous assets to any police force. K9 units consist of the human officer who acts as a handler and the K9 unit (dog). Both officers receive special training to enable them to function as an effective team for keeping law and order. There are various breeds of dog suitable for K9 work including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and other intelligent breeds. Smart dogs with agility and the ability to respond well to training are the best candidates for the job. K9s are expensive and the costs can range from $12,000 to $20,000, depending on the type and amount of training the dog receives. These dogs emerge as useful members of law enforcement teams. Many K9s have given their lives in the line of duty, but many have made it to retirement age. They’ve been credited with finding lost hikers, lost children, discovering dead bodies, explosive devices, illegal drugs, and more. Police dogs are professionally trained animals that give their all to the job and some have even been known to save the lives of their partners or members of the community.

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