Four-legged officers prove worthy addition in Garfield County | AspenTimes.com
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Four-legged officers prove worthy addition in Garfield County

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentFalcos is a 20-month-old German shepard and one of two new canine officers to join the Garfield County Sheriff's Department. Falcos is handled by Sgt. Jim Schuckers. Cpl. Josh Craine is seen in the background with his canine partner, Drogen.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a 12-year-old girl who had run away from a foster home, officers went to the dogs.

It sounded like a job for Cpl. Josh Craine and his partner, a 5-year-old German shepherd named Drogen.

The runaway had a history of mental illness and it was the middle of winter; Drogen sniffed her out in the nick of time.

“We found her before she became hypothermic,” Craine said.

“If the dog wouldn’t have found her within 15 minutes of when he did, she would have been dead,” said K-9 Sgt. Jim Schuckers.

The Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit has only been around for about three years. Drogen and another German shepherd, Ejon, were the first two dogs to join the team, but in January, the department added two new German shepherds ” 26-month-old Bak and a 20-month-old Falcos.

The new dogs are both from the Czech Republic; their names are shortened versions of their native Czech names.

According to Schuckers, Garfield County chooses dual-purpose dogs specifically trained in both narcotics detection and patrol work. The latter includes tracking people and subduing aggressive suspects.

According to Craine, Drogen, the eldest of the four dogs, has sniffed out everything from a tiny quantity the drug ecstasy to 30 pounds of marijuana stashed in a home. But he’s also found lost individuals, including the 12-year-old girl.

“We use them for all kinds of things,” Craine said. “It’s just whatever we are applying them for. I think they are very useful.”

It’s difficult to quantify a dog’s value, Schuckers said, but when it comes to subduing an aggressive individual, the dogs often work better than a gun.

“It’s surprising just how few people are afraid of guns,” he said. “But they are afraid of the dog.”

On more than one occasion, Schuckers said, a dog’s presence alone has proved more effective than the gun on an officer’s hip.

“We document hundreds of calls each year where we use the dogs,” Schuckers said. “So far, the presence has worked and we have never had to have a dog bite a suspect or anything like that.”

Just having a dog at the scene generally deters a suspect from getting out of control ” and that’s enough for Schuckers and Craine to deem the canine officers a worthwhile addition to the department’s ranks.

“The fact that we don’t have to take it to the next step [use a weapon] makes us very happy,” Schuckers said. “We will keep that card as long as we can.”

Schuckers, who is Falcos’ handler, said the two newest dogs aren’t yet certified, but he expects them to be by June.

Certification takes between eight and 12 weeks of full-time training. The sheriff’s office certifies each dog twice every year ” once through their own certification process, set by the Colorado Police Canine Association, and once through a National Police Canine Association process. The handler and dog must be certified as a team.

“It’s a blast working with them,” Craine said.

There is a list of deputies waiting for an opening on one of the K-9 units, Schuckers noted. Everyone wants to work with a dog.

“It’s fun,” Schuckers said. “It’s a lot of extra work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

jgardner@postindependent.com


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