CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio (WCMH)–K-9 Harry works with Deputy Rob Morningstar. The Belgian Malunions has a dual purpose: sniffing out drugs and tracking down suspects. The two paired up when Harry turned a year old and have been together for four years. Harry responds to Dutch commands.
One of the main points Morningstar points out is that Harry, like the other dogs, wants to find what his training taught him. When he finds the “prize,” Harry gets to play with a stick. In essence, when the dogs work, their goal is to get the reward of playing with their handler.
“The first pass is a cursory pass. That’s just when we go around the vehicle,” said Morningstar. “The second pass is a detail pass. That’s when we start hitting the seams. As you’ve seen in the TV shows, people get really good at hiding drugs and stuff they don’t want nobody to find.”
During this training exercise, Harry pawed at the gas cap and sat looking at the car. That is when Harry’s stick came out and he got to play tug-o-war with Morningstar. Immediately there was a sense of friendship as opposed to serious work being accomplished.
The two are always training. Whether they are at work or at home. Morningstar maintains constant structure with Harry.
“Anyone who has a five-year-old at home knows if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile,” Morningstar said.
Keeping Harry focused on his training means only searching for the scent of drugs.
“He can find things people can’t see. They try all different ways to mask the odor with hot sauce, chili peppers, all kinds of things,” said Morningstar. “We implement air-fresheners, we leave hamburgers on the seat. The last thing we want is to deploy our dog and he doesn’t do what he’s trained to do he just goes and eats the hamburger. So we try to make [the training] as real as possible.”
One of the biggest training steps for the dual-purpose K-9s is learning who is family.
“I’ve got a nine-year-old and a 13-year-old at home, and he had to be implemented too. They don’t just come home and go right into being a pet,” said Morningstar.
Just like his handler and the rest of us. Harry needs to decompress after a day of work. That means playtime. Morningstar and Harry have to work on playing after work in order for Harry to change into a house dog.
This time together is important, because the dual purpose dogs are trained to protect their handlers.
“If you get up in my personal space and you put your hands on me, you’re going to wear him like a koala,” said Morningstar.
The deputies are equipped with a remote control to open the cruiser’s doors should they need their dog’s help.
“If we were to pop this door and everybody’s standing here, he’s going to run through everybody else to find me,” said Morningstar. “Once he finds me, he’ll look to me from guidance from there.”
NOTE: DO NOT approach any service animal while they are working. Whether the animal is on a mission with the police or working with a person with disabilities, always ask the animal’s handler if you may interact with the animal.