Deputy dogs ready for duty at Fayette Sheriff's Office
If a dog is man’s best friend, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office now has two new best friends on the force.
The sheriff’s office about a month ago acquired the services of Darko, a 3-year-old Belgium Malinois, that serves with Dep. Cody Bensley as a patrol dog. And just last week the office secured Duke, a 5-month-old bloodhound that serves with Dep. Shane Head as a tracking dog.
Darko came to the sheriff’s K-9 unit after his predecessor Arros passed away in August. Both Darko and Bensley attended the Alabama Canine Officer’s Training School, where the two spent an initial 10 weeks in training.
Maj. Brian Woodie said the total cost for Darko and the training he and Bensley received totaled approximately $18,000, with those costs provided through drug seizure funds and from community donations.
For his part, Bensley is a certified K-9 instructor who continuously trains handlers with law enforcement agencies from Fayetteville, Peachtree City and Fulton, Pike, Coweta and Troup counties.
“Having Cody as a trainer for other agencies helps us with our own dogs,” Woodie said. “He and Darko are training all the time, 30-40 hours per month.”
For 5-month-old bloodhound Duke, his arrival last week was timely, said Head, due to the departure of two of the unit’s three tracking dogs in the past month due to illness.
“So Duke replaces one of the dogs and we still need another,” said Head.
Duke came to Fayette County from York County, South Carolina, the home to a tremendous training and breeding program, said Woodie.
“They had 37 pups and we got the number-three dog on their list, and at no charge,” Woodie explained.
Head begin his involvement with the K-9 unit in 2007, Bensley in 2006. Their involvement, and that of other K-9 handlers, is one that requires a special desire to accomplish, Woodie said.
“It takes time to do this job and to do it well,” said Bensley. “But a tremendous amount of work makes the dog the best he can be. And the successes make it worth it.”
Head agreed, noting, “It’s not just a job, he’s is your buddy. It’s nice to be able to start from nothing (with a new dog like Duke) and with his capabilities, build it into something.”
Patrol dogs like Darko accomplish a range of duties. Though most often associated with drug detection, patrol dogs also possess other skills such as short-term tracking, evidence recovery, building searches and handler protection. A patrol dog essentially follows an ecological ground disturbance that creates a scent, Bensley explained.
And as for short-term and long-term tracking, it’s hard to beat the legendary nose of a bloodhound. Clearly capable of following specific human odors, one of the sheriff’s bloodhounds recently found an missing Alzheimer’s patient.
Woodie assessed the overall purpose of any of the agency’s canine members. They are trained to find people, articles and drugs, he said.
“And they are all trying to find their (training) toy,” Bensley said smiling, commenting on the toy that each dog receives during training. It is receiving that toy after a successful outing that continues to solidify the bond between the dog and his partner.