Take "Paws" for K-9 Feats

by Tammy Whitacre               from Wayne County Star    October 12, 2000

WAYNE COUNTY - A boy found in the woods, a weapon located after a kidnapping, a robbery suspect tracked and caught in pursuit, are only a few of the Wayne Sheriff's Department K-9 Unit's success stories.

"[The K-9 Unit] is one of the best in the state," Wayne County Sheriff Richard Pisciotti asserted.

For years, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department relied on other police agencies to aid in their investigations. In 1984, Pisciotti decided it was time the Sheriff's Department had its own K-9 Unit. The unit was formed with the first donation from the Wayne County Pomona Grange and has since raised $18,000 to $20,000 for the unit's dogs and their training. Over the years, the dogs have been all over New York State in various counties and even by the FBI to aid in investigations. The unit also does at least 50 demonstrations for schools, Boy Scouts, and various organizations throughout Wayne County every year and they never refuse to help another agency.

Pisciotti recalls several successful feats of the K-9 Unit over the years. Some years ago, a report of a little boy with Downs Syndrome had wandered off and disappeared. The Lyons Fire Department, volunteer searchers and a helicopter, equipped with infrared gear designed to detect body heat, were called in to search for the boy. Sergeant Howard Blocher with Bloodhound partner, Barney, were also called in to help search the woods north of Lyons where the boy was believed to be. Barney found the boy asleep in a hollow tree stump where searchers would have been hard pressed to locate him.

In Williamson off Route 21, a young girl was kidnapped front her bed. The perpetrator was caught and with the help of a K-9, the weapon was found. Only a few weeks ago, Deputy George Lorenz and K-9 partner Majko (Mee-ko) were in pursuit of man in the Village of Lyons Lorenz entered a the home with a warrant. As Majko headed upstairs, he located the suspect in a closet. Fearing the dog, the suspect fled, jumping out a window to the ground two stories below where Lyons Police Officers were able to capture him. Majko went in pursuit, when Lorenz realized the drop would injure or possibly kill the dog and pulled Majko back.

Story after story brings to light the courageous efforts of Sheriff's K-9 Unit. From tracking underage teens for a mile and a half to searching lockers at local schools for narcotics, the K-9 Unit plays a vital role in aiding police investigations.

Meet the dogs and their partners

If you think the dogs are in charge of the K-9 Unit, you may be right. The overall care of a K-9 requires a dedication by his human partner unknown to many people.  The dogs are all purchased through private donations and only $1 a day per dog is used from tax dollars to provide care for the K-9's. From food, water, and check-ups to exercising, training and working, Deputies give 200% to their K-9 partners. Skeptical? Well, how many people do you know who have to take their business partner outside to go potty before going to bed at night? Hmmin...

Meet Quigley and his partner Deputy Bill Carr. Quigley is an eight and a half year old yellow Labrador certified in narcotics and trained as a cadaver dog. Partners for three and a half years, Carr and Quigley have formed a bond to last a lifetime. Quigley was working in Florida as a narcotics dog when Pisciotti purchased him for $6,000. Once he was here, the Department found a partner to best suit Quigley, and Carr went to Syracuse to train with the dog.

As the only cadaver dog owned by a department in western New York, Quigley has maintained a successful record. With permission from the Sheriff, Quigley, registered as a cadaver dog, has left the county to perform for other agencies, including Steuben County where he found the remains of two bodies burned in a house. Cadaver dogs are rare and certification is difficult to come by.

More often, Quigley is used to sniff out hidden narcotics. Training and play are one in the same. Training is required twice a week with the dogs and their human partners. The dogs begin their training when they are one to two years old. Carr works Quigley with toys filled with marijuana, hiding the toys for Quigley to find or playing tug-of-war with the K-9. Carr says it is always important to let the dogs win to build their confidence. When the dogs are training, they are told only once to perform a task or they are corrected. When Quigley finds a trace of narcotics, he scratches; when he finds a body, he sits. Quigley is most noted for his locker searches at various schools in the area.

Quigley can be seen wandering the halls at the Sheriff's Office, visiting friends while Carr completes reports. Carr says Quigley, affectionately termed "Quig," looks harmless, but works aggressively when he is on the job. As the oldest dog in the unit, Quigley will be retired when he is I1 or 12 years old. At that time he will be offered to Carr to take home as a leisure companion.

"I'm gonna take him in a heartbeat," Carr enthused without hesitation, but adds he will not take on the next dog who will replace Quigley.

"I love my dog," Deputy George Lorenz enthused.

Six-year-old Majko is a 90 pound German Shepherd trained in tracking, criminal apprehension and as a bomb dog. Partner Deputy George Lorenz has worked with Majko for two years now and has noticed dog and handler take similar characteristics. He says Majko knows when it's time to work and when it's time to play or train. 

During criminal apprehension training, Majko is taught to bite, but only when commanded to by Lorenz, who says the dogs bite to stop a suspect, not to harm him.  Although the bite hurts, the dog has been taught to aim for the back of the shoulder where it is solid and there is no chance of major injury. Lorenz has also noted that the dog is a master of body language and is, very receptive to his handler.

When first starting in the unit, Lorenz says it was nothing like he expected. The effort put in to maintain order and performance of the K-9 is much harder than it seems, Lorenz affirmed.

 

"It doesn't appear to be as demanding as it is," he noted.

Lorenz works with Majko to sniff out hidden items and wears a protective suit when practicing criminal apprehension.

When Majko finds something, he indicates his find with a bark. Majko is always on the alert, and Lorenz finds he does not even need to watch his mirrors when sitting in his car; Majko makes a great alarm system.

Majko will be retired soon, despite his young age, due to a medical problem. Hip displacement has kept Majko on medication to keep him free of pain so he can work and he has been doing quite well. Pisciotti stated the Department will be holding another fundraiser to raise money to purchase a new dog to take Majko's place. When given the opportunity, Lorenz says he will take Majko upon retirement. He also would welcome the opportunity to take on a new K-9 partner.

Fellow Deputy John Heckle notes Majko's skilled nose and Lorenz' skilled handling. He jokes, "Do you know when it's time to leave a building during a bomb scare? When Lorenz and his dog are running out the front door."

"The more I'm in the unit, the more I look forward to working with my dog," Deputy Joe Cole stated.

Cole's partner, Beau, is a 114-pound six-year-old Bloodhound. The two have been partners for over five years. Beau was bought at a low price from a couple in Rochester. The people had bought Beau as a puppy for a pet. When Beau bit each of his new owners, the couple decided to get rid of him. They called several police agencies looking to see if they might need a dog. Wayne County had just recently lost their Bloodhound, Barney, who had passed away. Beau was just what they were looking for. After some training, Cole was ready to take Beau on and the rest is history. With an 80% accuracy rate, Beau has the nose for people. Trained only to track fleeing suspects, Beau can locate perpetrators in bushes or behind trees, but leaves indoor tracking to his fellow K-9 shepherds. It is very seldom Beau does not make a find and 90% of the time he is called out when tracking needs to be done.

Cole admits to talking to Beau while he is on patrol and often gets funny looks when Beau is not in the immediate view of others. He loves his job and he loves his dog, despite the added responsibility required.

"I think every police department should have a dog," Cole asserted. "Just to see our dogs work, it's phenomenal. They are the best tool a police department can have."

Cole's wife is also a K-9 officer working for the Lyons Police Department. Beau is a bit high-strung. He likes to be top dog and only gets along well with his wife's K-9 partner and their pet Pug at home. Beau's active nature keeps him on top of things while working. Cole recalls when he first got Beau. The K-9 weighed 140 pounds and the veterinarian recommended some serious weight loss. Beau has no problem staying in shape now.

Cole says training involves everything they could possibly come across in the streets, and he always lets Beau win. A few months ago, Cole recalls being called in to find a 10-year-old girl who ran into the woods. In three minutes, Beau had found her.

"His nose can tell so much more," Cole said. "You'd never believe where you find people."

"If I had to do it all over again," Cole concluded, "I wouldn't trade my Bloodhound."

The final member of the Wayne County Sheriff's K-9 Unit is Iwo and his partner Deputy John Heckle. Iwo is a one of a kind black German Shepherd. At six years old, Iwo is convinced he's human, barking in response to the radio when Heckle's been called. Iwo was trained in patrol tracking and narcotics, working with Quigley to sniff out drugs from school lockers, vehicles or just about anything else. At 79 pounds, Iwo was purchased for about $5,000. He came from Czechoslovakia where he was bred to work. He was originally partnered with Russ Stein. When Stein left a year and a half ago, Pisciotti picked Heckle to take Iwo.

There are several theories as to how a tracking dog tracks. German philosophy calls it ground disturbance believing a dog's nose can determine weight, time and so on where the ground has been disturbed. Others disagree. Nevertheless, Iwo has no problem finding what he's looking for. Iwo is very healthy and retirement is not in the near future. Heckle expects Iwo will be around here for a long time.

Iwo is also trained to bite, preferably called criminal apprehension, however, he usually tracks to find weapons or evidence, not a person. Iwo follows German commands. Heckle says the German commands create less confusion for the dog when commands are being given.

So what does Iwo do for fun? Heckle says he exercises Iwo in fields. Iwo likes to run in front of the car and Heckle laughs when he says he has gotten up to 20 miles per hour chasing Iwo.

"It's fun," Heckle said. "He loves it."

Despite the constant demand these dogs require from their human handlers, these Deputies would not trade their jobs for anything. To help the Wayne County Sheriff's Department maintain its outstanding K-9 Unit, please send monetary donations to the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, K9 Unit, 7368 Route 31, Lyons, N.Y. 14489. Make checks payable to the K-9 Unit.

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