Carson City Sheriff's Office adds two K-9 deputies

Wheeler Cowperthwaite/Nevada AppealCarson City sheriff's Deputy Jeff Pullen shows a ball to his Belgian malinois, Rex, on Thursday at the sheriff's office.

Wheeler Cowperthwaite/Nevada AppealCarson City sheriff's Deputy Jeff Pullen shows a ball to his Belgian malinois, Rex, on Thursday at the sheriff's office.

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The Carson City Sheriff's Office has two new deputies, and instead of barking orders, they will just bark.

Rex and Tommy are the new deputies, bringing the sheriff's office number of K-9 deputies to four.

The two newest deputies, one who whom replaced a fellow K-9 deputy with health issues, were made possible by donations from the community.

Sheriff Ken Furlong said he suspended the program in 2004. He started the program back up in 2006, after working with the District Attorney's office and internally to write a new program.

Since then, the program was swelled to four dogs, who are cross-trained to patrol. The other two sniff for drugs. One is also a tracker.

The sheriff's office had the goal of replacing the ailing deputy by the end of the year and was well on its way toward that goal when an organization, which wishes to remain out of the media, wrote the office a $20,000 check, pushing the sheriff's office well beyond its goal for the replacement deputy and into the push for a fourth.

"It was a huge relief for us," Furlong said. "We had the ability to say, 'we can pick up a fourth dog.'"

During one confrontation, a patrol dog, which is cross-trained to both sniff for drugs and to control humans, proved its importance when it jumped on a pool table.

The demeanor of the room changed; most likely because no one wanted to be bitten.

The entire confrontation stopped.

"That kind of response, that's huge," Furlong said.

With the fourth dog, or any of the dogs, the entire area is safer.

"We're now able to help ourselves and our neighbors," he said.

Czech-speaking German shepherd

Deputy Darin Riggin is a new handler for a new deputy, 2-year-old Tommy.

Tommy and Riggin speak enough Czech to understand each other. Tommy came from a Czech-speaking part of the Netherlands, where the majority of his training was done. Tommy picked up the commands in about a week, he said.

"They didn't teach him any obedience," Riggin said.

The trainers believe teaching the dog obedience too early would kill his drive to work.

Tommy loves to work, and it's evidenced by his wagging tail, his propensity to jump on Riggin, his puppy exuberance.

"He's very hyper. He's still a puppy."

That hyperactivity can be channeled into one thing: his toy.

"He will do anything if he gets to get his tennis ball at the end," he said.

When Riggin went to pick out his dog as the new K-9 handler, he wanted a dog who had the drive to work and to track. Tommy is that.

"His drive (to work,) it's insane," Riggin said.

Tommy has been busy with a bevy of searches in July and in August.

About one-third of the time, the searches come up with drugs but not a single false-positive has happened yet, which is what the sheriff's office wants to avoid.

Tommy has even tracked six different subjects and is an asset both for tracking those evading the law and those lost in the wildlands of Nevada.

Nevada is a hard place for dogs' noses. In the wet eastern U.S., dogs can track by scent and by the smell of dead vegetation. In the desert, dogs must track by the scant scents left on the desert sands.

"You need the rock stars of trackers," Riggin said.

The best partner

The K-9 deputy-handler relationship is a delicate one, which is both draining and rewarding for the handler.

"This is the greatest job in the world," Riggin said.

Because Riggin is Tommy's handler, he gets to respond to all sorts of calls he wouldn't otherwise be assigned to.

Sgt. Brian Humphrey said he agrees with Riggin.

Humphrey used to be a K-9 handler before his dog was retired and now he supervises the K-9 section, along with other sections.

"The work takes a toll on them, just like it does us," he said.

When Humphrey had his partner with him, he was happy as could be.

"It was one of my favorite positions," he said.

Having his K-9 partner in the car made all the difference.

"He was the best partner I've ever had."

Sheriff Ken Furlong took the handler role for a former K-9 deputy, Luke.

When a handler has a K-9 for a partner, all the duties are doubled. Every time the deputy opens a car door, he must do so far his partner too, Furlong said.

The dogs aren't pets, they're workers.

"When you have a working dog, it's work," he said.

Calm as a shepherd

Belgian Malinois Rex was bought in Holland and speaks Dutch, just like his partner, Deputy Jeff Pullen.

Rex is an exceptionally calm dog; he has the seeming calmness normally attributed to a German Shepherd, almost as if Rex and Tommy switched attributes of their breeds at birth.

Rex started his training in Holland and then finished it in Indiana. Rex is even good with his kids, Pullen said.

"He's calm and good around people," he said.

When it comes to temperament, Rex isn't just always calm. He's also seemingly always happy, he said.

Choosing Rex wasn't the easiest thing. Pullen had to decide between six dogs and after he spent four days there, he finally chose Rex.

Community outpouring

K-9 deputies are not terribly cheap, and the community has supported the program through grants and donations of money and time.

K-9 units have some special equipment that gets worn out, and the money donated to the sheriff's office for the K-9 program goes toward the dogs, the equipment, new K-9 units and incidental medical costs, Humphrey said.

The Sierra Veterinary Hospital has been giving the dogs free medical care but everything not labor related, such as prescriptions, gets paid for by the donations.

Just as the community has outpoured its support, the dogs and their handlers also go into the community.

When Humphrey had his partner Tahoe, he went to speak to schools and groups.

People still come up to him in the street or store because he brought Tahoe into their classroom years ago.

Groups who want to have the deputies bark or demonstrate can call Humphrey at 775-887-2020 and those wishing to donate should call the same number.


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