“Copper,” the bloodhound, and K-9 “Wyatt,” the Belgian Malinois, put on a demonstration of their abilities and training at the Anza The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Wednesday, Nov. 15.
The talented dogs were assisted by their Riverside County Sheriff’s Department handlers Cpl. Todd Garvin, Deputy Wade Grier and Deputy Mark Wallace.
K-9 Wyatt specializes in apprehension, narcotics detection and tracking, while Copper excels at tracking, true to his breed.
The demonstration got underway with an opening invocation and the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” sung proudly by Boy Scouts Troop 319 and Cub Scouts Pack 319.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Glen Holmes introduced Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Leonard Purvis, who spoke a few words and introduced the special guests – Garvin and his bloodhound Copper, Wallace and his K-9 Wyatt and assisting handler Grier.
Wallace introduced K-9 Wyatt momentarily, before reinstalling him into the police cruiser as he gave an informative talk regarding his experience and what the dogs do and why.
“Wyatt is a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, and he comes from the Netherlands, so all his commands are in Dutch,” Wallace explained to the rapt audience of Scouts, siblings, parents, grandparents, church members and the general public.
“The dogs live with us at our house,” Wallace said, describing the tight bond between dog and handler.
“When I joined the Sheriff’s department, I had one goal in mind, and that was to become a canine handler. I’ve always loved working with dogs. That’s all I wanted to do. For six years I got into the bite suit (the heavy padded apparel worn to protect the trainer from dog bites) went out and volunteered my time and got bit a lot by the dogs,” he said jokingly.
In 2013, Wallace was selected to become a canine handler and was assigned his first dog, Sultan. Tragically, in 2015, Sultan suffered a fatal gunshot wound in the line of duty, protecting his deputies from an armed suspect.
“The dogs that we use, they don’t know that they work and are asked to do dangerous things. They do it because they love to do it. They have no concept of being put in a place of danger. I feel this sacrifice saved my life and the lives of the other deputies that night,” Wallace said emotionally.
Wallace went on to describe the dogs’ amazing sense of smell and how that is used by the canine handlers to help assist deputies. This famous dog talent helps find drugs, people and other things.
He moved on to a demonstration of Wyatt’s apprehension skills, taking the energetic dog from the patrol car and focusing him on Grier, who was dressed in a protective bite suit and ready to take the blows. The exhibition of the dog’s ability brought gasps of amazement from the audience.
“He really enjoys doing what he does,” Wallace said, adding that K9 Wyatt has apprehended five people so far in his career.
Up next was Garvin with his bloodhound Copper, who sang the song of his people in anticipation of showing off his skills, baying and howling his excitement, while K-9 Wyatt barked inside the patrol car.
“Copper is a one and a half-year-old true American bloodhound. He is from Texas, from a top breeder in the United States. When we get our dogs, they go through extensive training beginning when they are 8 to 10 weeks old,” Garvin said.
Garvin added that the personable bloodhound was the top puppy in his litter. Copper agreed.
Copper’s main and sole purpose is to track live humans, such as missing children, dementia patients and criminals who run. Garvin said these dogs are “scent-specific,” meaning that the handlers tell them what to track and they ignore everything else.
Garvin explained what scent is, how the dogs can detect it and how this helps the sheriffs find the bad guys or people in distress. Scent is a unique “fingerprint” that is individual to each person.
Bloodhounds were specifically bred in Europe back in the 1500s as hunting dogs, and each dog was species specific as to the intended prey. Some were exclusively used for stags, some for boars, some for bears and so on. Today, these talents have been harnessed for the tracking of people.
The secret of Copper’s motivation to track was also revealed.
It’s dog cookies, Garvin said.
“That’s all he works for. He works for that cookie, and he works for praise. And he’s good at it,” Garvin said with a huge grin.
He went on to explain the dog’s comical appearance. The long droopy ears are used to waft scent from the ground to his face, the wrinkles on his forehead help trap scent for his nose to analyze and the big feet are for all-terrain traction abilities.
Copper got the chance to work for his fans. Garvin selected volunteer Webelos Scout James Phillips to be the bait and had him walk around the parking lot, up and over the lawn and hide in the bushes next to the entrance of the church.
Copper shivered with excitement as his handler put on his working vest and was given the boy’s jacket to sniff and commanded to search. He wiggled around the parking lot and unbeknownst to his partner, he made a beeline to the car that the child had arrived in. Garvin redirected him to find the freshest trail and he was off, locating James in seconds.
The faithful dog received his cookie and lots of praise for a job well done.
After the canine demonstrations, guests were invited to a loaded baked potato dinner with all sorts of wonderful toppings, including chili, broccoli, melted and shredded cheeses, chives, sour cream, butter and perfectly baked potatoes.
For more information regarding the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department K-9 team, visit www.riversidesheriffk9team.com/index.html.