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Six K-9 teams graduate from Sullivan County Sheriff's training program

Staff Report • Mar 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Six area K-9 handlers have graduated a 14-week training academy offered by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

Kingsport Police Department Officers Brian Taylor and David Johnson graduated with their respective partners, Axle and Cinco.

The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office also graduated two teams - deputy Brian Wexler and partner Ebo, and Melissa Marlowe and partner Misha.

The Bristol Tennessee Police Department graduated handler Chesney Griffin and her K-9 partner Ozha.

A K-9 pair from the Bristol Virginia Police Department also graduated -- Bobby Nichols and Hooch.

"It's really hard," SCSO Sheriff Wayne Anderson told the graduates. He said he'd trained dogs for 17 years and knew the hardships ahead. "It can be a tough job," he said, "People just don't realize."

Despite the challenges, Anderson added that there's nothing better than a K-9 when it comes to sniffing out bombs, drugs and people. "Nothing that we have is as high tech as a police dog. That nose is as high tech as you can get," he said.

He offered a comparison from a training class in Washington D.C. There, he learned that a machine might take all day to locate a bomb in a room. A dog, on the other hand, is much faster. "It only took that dog about a minute," he said.

Kingsport Police Department Deputy Chief David Quillin told the graduates, "Make the most of this time and really enjoy this, because as I look back on almost 25 years in law enforcement, the few years that I spent as a K-9 officer are by far the most memorable and easiest."

BVPD Capt. Darryl Milligan thanked Anderson for offering the training to their K-9 unit. The closest training facility they usually attend involves an expensive, extended stay in Richmond, he said.

Sullivan County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Baird served as an assistant trainer at the academy. At the graduation, he said, "What we're training these dogs to do is nothing new to a dog. Walk him around, what's he do, he sniffs...we want to use that nose to find something."

"But we don't want him to find rabbits or something, we want him to find explosives or drugs or people."

The key is to reward the dogs each time they demonstrate the ability to recognize specific odors and communicate the find to their handlers, Baird explained.

"Dogs aren't hard to train, we're not getting the dog to do anything he don't do in life. We gotta get that lout that's hooked to the lead on the other end to realize what the dog's telling us. That's what this class is about," he said.

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