Many people have dogs as companions, as members of their family or even as extra protection for their homes.
Ruger, a 7-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd Belgian Malinois mix, also has a job to do with the Orland Police Department.
Orland police Officer Grant Carmon said Ruger has been with the department for about seven years.
“It’s a lot of fun having a dog as your partner,” Carmon said. “We can use him for all kinds of different stuff.”
He said they can use Ruger for things like drug sniffs at schools and searches on cars, and community members also enjoy seeing him around town.
“A lot of the time, people will flag me down and say ‘oh I want to say hi to Ruger’ and we’re lucky that he has a really good temperament to where people can pet on him and stuff but when it’s time to work, he can flip the switch and he’s all business,” Carmon said.
Another thing Ruger can do, Carmon said, is if there is a dangerous situation, Ruger can be sent in and hopefully help make the situation safer for officers to follow.
“He’s actually only had one instance where he’s actually bitten a suspect,” Carmon said. “A lot of the time, when you bring him out, the people give up, which is exactly what we want. We want to be able to handle things with the least amount of force as possible.”
Carmon said a dog’s sense of smell is also beneficial to the department.
“His nose is unbelievable,” Carmon said. “... Their sense of smell is so great. I’ve had Ruger alert on vehicles and we find just a small amount of marijuana or methamphetamine inside a vehicle and it’s just amazing that they’re able to smell so good, so that gives us an added advantage to help combat the drug problem.”
He said there was one case where Carmon and Ruger were working a graveyard shift and stopped a van for a traffic violation. Carmon said it was a rental van from Florida and the driver was acting nervous and so he asked for consent to search the vehicle and the driver said no.
“So I used my partner to sniff around the vehicle and Ruger alerted and we ended up finding I believe about $78,000 in cash and a loaded firearm,” Carmon said. “They had come out from Florida and they were going to buy drugs and take them back to Florida so we were able to turn that over to the narcotics task force.”
He said Ruger first came to the department from Slovakia – Ruger even has his own passport – not knowing any commands. They went through a five-week basic handler’s course together and at the end, they did a state certification that they are required to pass to show a certain level of proficiency – each year they have to go through the certification.
However, the training doesn’t stop there.
Carmon works with Ruger pretty much everyday they work together – including basic obedience and some exercises to keep his skills sharp. They also do two formal trainings each month.
At the end of the day, Ruger even goes home with Carmon.
“When I first started with him, he was strictly out in the kennel but as he got more comfortable around my other dogs I have at home and my wife, we started bringing him in a little bit more and now he stays inside the house all the time,” Carmon said. “He sleeps right next to my bed every night.”
Carmon said he graduated from the police academy in 2004 and he wanted start working with a dog partly because it adds to what he can do as a police officer.
“I’ve always loved dogs and I just thought it would be a fun avenue to take to help break out of the normal monotony of being a police officer,” he said. “It adds some extra things that you can do because of having a K-9. I’ve gotten to do other trainings at different locations and help out other jurisdictions when they’ve needed a dog.”
Currently, he said, Ruger is the only active K-9 for the police department. However, they recently got another dog that they’re working on getting trained up. Carmon said if everything goes well, the new dog could be on the street around February or March.
Carmon said the Orland Police Department’s K-9 Unit is funded mostly through donations.
Training for the dogs costs $300 per month per dog and there are also vet bills, food, specialty equipment and more.
Carmon said the unit’s training costs, vet bills and things like that are funded through fundraisers and donations.
They host the Laws and Paws Music Festival each year (typically in August) and, in April, they also host a softball tournament to help raise money for the unit.
The annual music festival also offers people an opportunity to see K-9 demonstrations.
“Come out and support our events that we have,” Carmon said. “... Especially our Laws and Paws. It’s a good opportunity for people to be able to see some of the demonstrations and just interact with us. Now a days, law enforcement gets kind of a bad rap on a lot of stuff and it’s just a good, positive thing for the community to participate in.”
He said they’re under the umbrella of the North Valley Community Foundation so people can donate through their website or at the department. They also sell T-shirts and hats.