April 25, 2014 - 12:12 PM
VERNON - Sherri Funfer usually spends her day with a 14 pound Jack Russel Terrier, not a pack of police dogs.
The Salmon Arm resident got to tag along with the dog team Tuesday after her brother won the package at a fundraiser for HugABulls and the Okanagan Humane Society last November. Knowing how much his sister loves dogs, he gave the prize to her for Christmas.
Outside the Vernon police detachment, Funfer watches the rambunctious canines as their handlers describe the training process. Flex and Frieda, two of the dogs Funfer will get to know over the course of the day, can probably smell traces of her Jack Russel on her clothes.
The powerful German Shepherds are expertly trained to track and take down bad guys, something Funfer will witness today in practice scenarios. Highlights of the day include tracking, drug searching, criminal apprehension and puppy training.
“They’re amazing, they’re just wonderful dogs and friendly too. I think people have a lot of misconceptions,” Funfer, of Salmon Arm, says. “They’re just amazing dogs, they’re like big puppies.’’
Police only use German Shepherds because of their strength and ability to work in various climates. Puppies come from a breeder in Alberta and are trained by handlers like Const. Marc Jones, who is showing Funfer the ropes today. He’s one of only three handlers in the North Okanagan detachment area, and says the unit is frequently called upon.
“We try to get a police dog out for any serious situation,” Jones says.
The exuberant police dogs bark and play with their handlers, never sitting still. Like Funfer’s Jack Russel, they love attention and human contact. But even though their training includes socializing with dogs and people, they’re very different from a household pet.
“You should always be cautious around a police dog,” Jones says. “We bring them to school talks, I let kids pet my police dog... But it’s still a working dog, you always have to be prepared just in case something should happen.”
Funfer says she’s amazed by the intelligence of the police dogs and hopes more people get the opportunity to see what the unit is all about.
“Any dog lover would love a chance to come and do this,” she says.
Sherri Funfer won a day with the police dog unit as part of a fundraiser last November.
(CHARLOTTE HELSTON /InfoTel Multimedia)
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