Very special public servants

Sure, they drool and maybe don’t always have the best smelling breath.

But they don’t talk back, they have excellent attention spans and their focus is keen.

They are experts in their field of work, although their goals and that of their partners are completely different. They think they are playing a game, their partners know this is very serious business.

They are in love with very specific personal items which keep them interested in what they do, because the reward is so great.

Affection between co-workers is typically considered inappropriate and is frowned upon – in this situation, it is an essential part of the partnership.

The very special public servants to which I refer are the service dogs specifically trained to detect narcotics.

This week, we had the benefit of meeting Dundee, the newest addition to the York County Sheriff’s Department. He’s a beautiful animal – quite dark colored for a German Shepherd.

He speaks fluent Czech (because of the land in which he was born) and is now learning English.

He is the new partner of Deputy Penner who has been a canine specialist for the county for a considerable amount of time.

They work together and live together. Deputy Penner says they are still getting to know each other and that his new partner has a few interesting quirks, “you know, like you’d find in every other person you work with.”

Dundee is young – he’s only 20 months old. But he shows great promise, say the experts, who expect him to become one of the premier drug dogs in the state.

While the sheriff’s department says Dundee is the county’s fifth drug dog, I only remember two others.

There was Tikka, Dundee’s predecessor. That dog was incredible. Because of her amazing senses, nearly $100,000 in illegal drug-buy money was seized as well as so much pot the street value was estimated at half a million dollars.

Her relationship with Penner spanned nearly seven years and her tenure was nearly five. Sadly, her career and her life ended recently. Tikka had a tumor in her chest that couldn’t be removed and the difficult decision was made to have her put down.

It was the right thing to do.

As deputies and the sheriff talked with fondness about Tikka this week, I could see they miss her. After all, she was one of them.

Tikka wasn’t an “exchange student,” like Dundee. She was a local Yellow Lab who came from a long line of award-winning hunting dogs. Trained by Penner and Sgt. Brad Melby, she was taught to hunt for drugs rather than birds.

Everywhere Deputy Penner went, so did Tikka. It didn’t make a difference if it was day or night – Penner and Tikka were on their way, anytime a canine unit was needed.

And if they weren’t needed, Tikka was at home with the Penners, just part of the family.

Before Tikka, there was Nitro.

He was a magnificent German Shepherd partnered with Deputy Tony Howe.

I remember being in situations where the two were on duty. Whether it was riding together in a vehicle or working a scene, they literally had conversations with one another – even though one was using English and the other utilized dog speak.

They just understood each other.

Nitro loved Tony, Tony loved Nitro . . . they were the real life Turner and Hooch (without the excessive slobber).

Nitro had a penchant for Big Macs – so every time there was a successful drug find or discovery of a meth lab, that sheriff’s vehicle went straight to the McDonald’s drive-through so Nitro could be well rewarded.

Nitro and Tony were also very popular among the youngsters in the county. They were often visitors at 4-H club meetings and DARE programs. They were the superstars of Red Ribbon Week as they embarked on their countywide tour of appearances.

These dogs are not only remarkable animals, they are loved by the people who care for them.

Not only are they playful and most of the time typical, they are also powerful and with loyalty beyond limits.

Sure, they might drool, relieve themselves outside and have bad table manners . . . but they are incredible law enforcement officers.

They are everyone’s dogs because they work for the people . . . they are incredible public servants, whether they know it or not.


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