by Christy Parrott
Two of the newest members to the Grand County Sheriff’s department, Lady and Milo, are German Shepherds trained in recovery and search and rescue. The dogs and the specialized instruction they require are the result of a Justice Assistance grant, which enables the sheriff’s department to expand their scope for fugitive recovery, drug apprehension and search and rescue efforts.
Milo, trained in both German and Czech languages, can easily sniff out illegal drugs as well as track down a criminal on the run. “The challenge is to have dogs who can stop on command,” Lt. Mayer insists. Clearly, while a potential suspect may require apprehension, no one wants an injury to take place, and the sheriff’s department has certified animals who are capable of stopping and holding an individual, without harming them. “The biggest factor is that you can call the dog off,” Lt. Mayer explains.
The key is to get the dogs to stop midrun or simply let go once they’ve stopped the individual. “We can ‘out them’ on the middle of a run or call off a bite,” Lt. Mayer says of Milo who is trained in fugitive apprehension, tracking, and locating drugs.
Less aggressive than Milo, Lt. Mayer’s K9 (and, no, he insists, he did not name the dog, himself) Lady performs best at drug recovery and search and rescue, and will receive specific forensics training in locating people and perfecting her gait in deep snow. “She’s an absolute snow fanatic,” Lt. Mayer says.
Originally, Milo was imported from the Czech Republic, and Lady was a rescue dog whose skills were recognized and developed by Bill Delay of the Rocky Mountain K9 Academy. The academy trains the animals for 8 weeks, focusing on obedience, tracking, searching, and drug recognition. Each dog responds to not only specific commands, but languages and voices. For example, while Milo speaks German and Czech, “My dog speaks English,” Lt. Mayer jokes. “For Lady, sit means sit.”
Still, each dog in the K9 unit will only respond to their handler. Sheriff’s deputy DJ Elthorp is Milo’s handler while Lt. Mayer handles Lady. The two join Sheriff Brett Schroetlin’s dog, Jet who is no longer a rookie and trained in apprehension, tracking and locating bomb or explosive material.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Department takes great care to maintain and improve their animal’s skills, working together extensively at least one day a week. “It’s not only training for the dogs but also for each handler,” Lt. Mayer insists.
The Sheriff’s department plans for everyone to meet the dogs and understand their capabilities, providing demonstrations, such as a sort of hideand- seek game to display the dog’s ability to locate someone quickly, using only scent. “The animals are great with kids,” Lt. Mayer assures. “We’re able to keep them in control around others.” Look for the team at Community Night, April 18 from 4-7 p.m. at the Granby Police Department.