The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office wants to make each K-9 as comfortable as possible on the job. Each trainer learns commands in the language from the country in which their dog was born.
"A lot of these dogs have never seen these kind of high temperatures, high humidity so it's already stressful enough when they get to the U.S.," said Corporal Jason Cummings. "We just keep their life as simple as possible and we learn the language with a little bit of a southern twist to it."
Corporal Cummings puts that southern twist in French for his K-9, Flash. Living up to his name, in just 15 seconds, Flash found a piece of evidence I hid in the thick bushes.
"These dogs have the capability of finding things that we simply can't find," said Cummings. The bloodhound on this unit has a history of doing just that. Bane helped find a little girl chained to a tree in September. Today, I hid in the woods with Corporal Cummings to test Bane's skills again. He found us right away, if that was ever in doubt.
Sargent Justin Stegall and his four-legged partner, Django, are on the front lines of crime. Stegall said there's a misconception that the public should be wary of K-9s up close but he said if you aren't doing anything wrong, there's nothing to worry about.
"They do have that switch that they are trained to flip on and off, he is going to bite a bad man or a suspect in a crime if needed," added Stegall. "But when that is done he's going to go back to being that sociable dog that he was before."
The path to becoming a K-9 on the NHCSO unit is not an easy one. Trainers spend every waking moment with their partners, running them through agility courses, bite training, evidence retrieval, and missing persons drills.
"This is where all the blood sweat and tears, are shed," said Stegall, pointing at the training course. "This just opens up their world and better prepares them for the street."
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