By Brooke DeLong
“The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.”Konrad Lorenz
Law Enforcement officers work hard to keep us safe and a few in our county have a different kind of partner than expected. Co-owner Ted Summers of Torch Light K-9 training in Tulsa, where our K-9 (canine) teams receive training, provided an interesting tour of his facility and animals.
In an industrial-type setting, every Tuesday evening, Torch Light offers free scenario training to any Law Enforcement K-9 duo. The dogs separately practiced odor training in a staged shed, “detailed” vehicles and participated in bite training, which is of course, when they actually bite a human.
At the beginning of a K-9’s work life, he or she is carefully chosen as a puppy for health and a genetic predisposition for a strong drive, chase instincts, and hard work ethic. A dog’s career lasts about six to ten years before retirement. The breeds that make the best K-9s are typically German, Dutch, or Belgian Shepherds and usually arrive from other countries, which means they understand different languages. The trainer, Ted, keeps using their native language for training only and works with the dogs about two years before they can be certified with their handler. The dogs are vigorously trained for search and rescue, evidence recovery, sniffing out contraband, and more.
Handlers should be “clear-headed and extremely good” at making decisions. They should aim to understand the dog’s limits and strengths and communicate well with other officers. Ted tailors the training to meet the teams’ and agencies’ needs, he knows their strengths and where they need a bit of practice. Officer Kyle Masters with Sapulpa Police said the training “never stops…we keep them (the dogs) working and improving.”
The training area consists of a couple of vehicles, a school bus, a real working warehouse with noises for the “green” dogs to acclimate to, and a building where the odor and other training occurs. The dog is always rewarded with their toy and some affection from their handler. The K-9s are so proud to find the human decoy hiding behind a barrel or to sniff out contraband their tails wag in excitement.
K-9s usually do not make good pets because of their temperaments. However, the Sapulpa Police Department’s K-9, Valor, is able to be just that when he’s not working. He and his handler, Officer Masters, are breaking in their new SUV in which the suspect and Valor sit in the back seat together but are separated, for the safety of the suspect, no doubt. Valor and Officer Masters are on-call 24 hours a day and are also part of the Southwest Area Tactical Team.
K-9 Bear and Deputy Chad Pompa serve with the Creek County Sheriff’s Department.
While this reporter safely sat in a truck, Bear searched and latched on to a “bad guy,” decoy Travis Lax. Afterward, out of breath and with sweat dripping down his face, Travis explained the dog’s adrenaline rush and how the K-9 is not called off until the suspect complies. Deputy Pompa and Bear won the Narcotics Trial at the United States Police Canine Association Region 11 K-9 Narcotic Detection Trials last year. They are best known for drug detection and criminal apprehensions. The Sheriff’s Office also has Deputy Dru Davis with his partner, Ranger, who were training with Task Force 1.
Kellyville Police Department has two K-9 teams, Officer Dustin Tiner with Bismarck and Officer Tristan Warnock with Jasta. Both dogs have certain skill sets. Jasta specializes in drug detection and is a sociable dog. In fact, I got to hide in the warehouse and she sniffed us out quickly and enjoyed the episode of play she received from Ted and Officer Warnock. Bismarck found the hidden odors on a Chevy Suburban and had no qualms about biting the decoy.
The bond and trust between the officer and the dog are apparent. The K-9s make great members of an agency because they are multi-purpose and are force multipliers — their senses are so heightened compared to humans that they can do things we can’t. The dogs are oftentimes the last option before lethal force is used.
None of this would be possible without time, effort, dedication and hard work between the dog and officer. Not to mention, the training.
Ted is very passionate about training dogs for Law Enforcement. He’s taught thousands of dogs over nearly twenty years, for many different agencies across the country. He enthusiastically showed how officers are trained to hold their dog with one hand, gun in the other before entering a building, announcing their arrival three times and so much more. He said his job is “extremely rewarding and am intensely proud of his handlers.” He loves to hear stories in which his dogs have searched for people after a tornado and been an asset in dangerous situations.
Besides offering a free weekly class, the Torch Light team also boards the K-9s for free while their handlers are on vacation. Torch Light K-9 specializes in training for single and dual-purpose K-9s. Ted also co-hosts a Podcast called ‘Working Dog Radio’ and teaches at seminars across the country. Videos are available to view on their Facebook page: Torch Light K9 or find them at torchlightk9.com
It was an honor to get a glimpse into the training it takes to be a successful K-9 unit and this reporter is grateful for the hard work of everyone involved. Even though our K-9 teams are forces not to be reckoned with, please remember to pray for all of our officers and first responders. Thank you, for serving Creek County.