UPD K-9s are officers’ best friends
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012 00:08
For West Virginia University Campus Police Officer Joshua Cook, a day on the job is more than work – it’s fun.
"I’ve always wanted to be a police officer," Cook said. "And the fact that I get to hang out with my best friend every day – you just can’t beat it."
Cook is the supervisor of the UPD K-9 unit, a division of the force that uses service dogs to search for narcotics and explosives.
The K-9 unit provides security for events throughout town, and answers calls around the Morgantown area for bomb threats and drug busts.
Recently, the K-9 unit increased by two officers and three more dogs – a move Cook feels is good for the community.
"We know the grand scheme is to lower crime rates and make this town and University a better place," he said.
Cook works with the dogs in the unit that search for explosives: Bella and Ginger, two purebred Golden Retrievers. Last year, Bella earned a bronze medal from the American Kennel Club’s awards for Canine Excellence in Law Enforcement, making her one of 10 dogs in the nation to be honored.
Ginger is still young at 9 months old, but already she’s learning the ropes.
"She’s awesome," he said. "But it’s a lot of training, of course."
Bella and Ginger are trained to explore crowds and sniff out traces of explosive materials on clothing.
"It’s a lot of mental work for the dog. They have to pick one person out of a crowd, and that’s not easy," Cook said.
Officer Travis Snuffer works with Dexter, one of the force’s narcotics dogs.
"I’ve always had a passion for dogs," he said. "And I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid. It’s great."
For the past two months, Snuffer has lived and worked with Dexter and enjoys their close relationship.
"I love the satisfaction of watching him work," he said. "Every time Dexter finds something, I feel like a proud father."
Snuffer and Dexter have made eight calls together and discovered drugs every time.
"It’s a pretty good track record," Snuffer said.
Officer Zach Camden works with Blek, a black Labrador that specializes in locating narcotics.
"It’s definitely a privilege," he said. "These aren’t your normal, household dogs."
In order to train the dogs, the officers live with them, work with them and even take them on vacation.
"There’s a lot of work outside your normal 8-hour shift," Camden said.
He enjoys the time he spends with Blek, however. "They’re definitely man’s best friend," he said.
A dog’s sense of smell is 44 times stronger than a human’s, making them excellent for locating illicit material.
"It’s unbelievable what you can train a dog to do," Camden said.
Although they’re service dogs, none of the K-9 unit are attack dogs. According to Camden, the dogs are loving and great with kids.
"You can trust them around anyone, but they’re definitely protective of us," he said. "If someone’s coming close to my cruiser, he’ll let me know."
Cook said he often takes Bella and Ginger to local schools to introduce children to K-9 units.
"They’re great with kids," Cook said. "We always have a great time, and they’re good at PR."
UPD Chief Bob Roberts is proud of the K-9 unit’s expansion.
"They’re beneficial in a lot of ways," he said. "Particularly in securing our sporting and other events. We’ve got a good team now."
To learn more about the Campus Police or to contact the K-9 unit, visit www.police.wvu.edu or call 304-293-2677. For emergencies, call 911 or your local emergency service provider.