With perked ears and wagging tales, police dogs from across the state ripped through an obstacle course, sniffed out drugs and sunk their teeth into “bad guys.”
This year’s Gem State K-9 Trial 2014 Police Dog Competition, held Thursday at Ravsten Stadium, featured 25 dogs and their handlers. When the competition ended, the fastest-wagging tales belonged to Zeke and Duke, of the Idaho Falls Police Department, and Ringo, Bart, Tessa and Homer of the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office.
The six dogs smoked the field, winning all four advanced-level contests in obedience, agility, patrol and drug detection.
In the obedience competition, handlers walked side-by-side with their dogs around a cone-course, stopping at various points along the way and commanding their dogs to sit, stop and get back up.
Bonneville County Sgt. Chris Smith and Bart won with flying colors. While Bart can be a goofball at home, Smith said he is focused and obedient when working.
“(Bart) knows that as soon as he steps into the patrol car, it’s time to work,” Smith said.
The agility course consisted of various objects and obstacles, including a polyester tunnel, an A-shaped wooden frame, a stack of mounted barrels and a situated car door with an open window.
Zeke and his handler, officer Jeanette Johnson, owned the competition. Johnson said Zeke’s agility, focus and obedience make him a good partner in sticky situations.
“Zeke goes everywhere with me while I’m on duty,” Johnson said. “He’s always got his eye on me and is quick to respond if I ever need help.”
The dogs also were tested on their ability to catch “bad guys.”
Handlers set the dogs on officers in bite-suits, posing as criminals. The officers yelled and waved their arms before the dogs pounced on them, biting with as much force as they could muster.
“I’ve been in the suit before, it’s not a good time,” Smith said. He and Bart took second place behind Johnson and Zeke.
Later, the dogs put their noses to the test in the drug-detection challenge.
Idaho Falls Police spokeswoman Joelyn Hansen said officers checked out small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine from the department’s evidence room and then hid them for the K-9s to sniff out.
Smith and Bart took first again in the drug detection challenge.
Deputy Jason Stewart said his K-9 partner, Ringo, who won third in the drug detection competition, is no newcomer to sniffing out narcotics.
“Ringo has found pounds of drugs before,” Stewart said. “He was the dog who discovered the 52 pounds of methamphetamine and 27 pounds of cocaine (March 9, 2013) on U.S. Highway 20.”
Among the 70 people in the stands was Jack Vernon, who enjoyed watching his Idaho Falls hometown-heroes.
“It’s been a really good time,” Vernon said. “The dogs are so talented. It’s good to know they’re working for us.”