"Woof! Woof! Woof!"
That's canine-speak for "I am top dog!"
Kingsport Police Department K9 Zak earned barking, er, bragging rights Wednesday at the 2007 USPCA Region 8 Police Dog Trials in Clinton, Tenn., when he received the Top Dog trophy.
At a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Zak, described by handler Brian Taylor as "usually laid back," was barking excitedly as his human police partner spoke about the honor of being named Top Dog, as well as finishing in third place in the box search event.
KPD K9 Odus and handler Kevin Hite also won their share of awards, with a first-place trophy in the agility event and sixth place overall.
The competition included "obedience, agility, article search which is evidence recovery, box search which simulates a room or house clearing, and of course the apprehension with gun firing," said Hite.
"To me, what's more fun is the things on the road, working with him at night in the car - that's what's a lot of fun. This (the awards) is like a lot of bragging rights, and dog handlers are really competitive. Everybody's dog runs faster, bites harder, jumps harder," he added.
Despite competition from the Sullivan, Campbell and Loudon County sheriff's offices as well as Johnson City, Bristol and Clinton police departments, Kingsport's combined scores earned them the first-place team trophy.
"The competition was pretty healthy, and we're extremely pleased that our guys have done great in this competition," said Police Chief Gale Osborne.
"Dealing with all the narcotics we deal with here in the Tri-Cities and the protection of the officers when we go in on robberies and burglaries and every other kind of event - whether we're tracking someone, an Alzheimer's patient or whether we're tracking a murder suspect or someone that runs and throws drugs down - we can't get by without them," Osborne said.
Osborne added that Kingsport is "on the verge" of adding an additional K9 to the department.
Meanwhile, a round of applause went to the dogs, both for their recent awards in the competition, as well as the work they've done for the department.
Osborne described Zak as an "outstanding dog" and explained that Zak and Taylor had "been involved in many multiple felony arrests" in addition to assisting with Homeland Security efforts at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In 2006, Zak won recognition as Top Detector Dog in the Police Canine Association Region 8 Protector Dog Trials.
Osborne credited Hite and Odus with more than 28 apprehensions and the seizure of four vehicles.
"It's nice to have the work you've done rewarded with things like this," said Hite.
Taylor added, "You spend every night with them, eight hours, and you get really attached to them. You know it's our job to help keep the citizens safe, work them hard, and this is what they live for. They live for the work, and they wouldn't have it any other way."
Neither would Taylor, who came to the department from the Air Force.
"I've been here since 1990, and I became a K9 handler in 2004. Before that, I was just a patrolman. It doesn't compare. I was in the Air Force before I got on here and I rode horses for three years of that, and this is the best. This is the best. It really is," he said.
Zak, of course, woofed enthusiastically in agreement.