K9 GRADUATION DAY CLEARWATER FLORIDA

Dogs And Handlers Display Skills, Dedication

An introduction to K-9 graduation day in Clearwater, Florida

“Taco” hadn’t even graduated yet but he was already a hero. Just days before Clearwater Florida hosted K9 graduation day, this talented police dog made his very first apprehension. He caught a driver who had run into the woods and was hiding behind a bulldozer. This was after crashing into another vehicle and rolling into a pond. Taco’s handler, Corporal Matthew Aitken, of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, then arrested the man for leaving the scene of a crash with injuries. Bravo, “Taco”!

Days before Clearwater Florida hosted their annual police dog certification event, “Taco” had already made his first catch
Days before Clearwater Florida hosted their annual police dog certification event, “Taco” had already made his first catch

Teams Of Two Plus Guests

I had never attended an event like this before and I’m so glad I did. It was great to see the community, many parents and children, supporting Florida’s law enforcement. In addition, there were many working dogs and their handlers who also came out to cheer on their fellow officers. After all, they’ve been through this themselves and know exactly how it feels on this special day.

K-9 Certification Ceremony

On March 19 this year the police dog certification event was hosted by Clearwater, Florida, and held at Countryside High School football field. The Master of Ceremonies was Sergeant Mike Kilian of the Special Operations Division – K9 Unit whom I’d met a few weeks earlier at a local Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Open House.

He explained that the Basic Patrol training program had lasted an intensive four months, from November 2018 thru February 2019 at several different locations. They included both Sheriff and Police Department K-9 compounds as well as a few private businesses that allow law enforcement to use their facilities during non-working hours. 

Together with their handlers, these fab five K-9s are now officially certified, ready to uphold the law and keep our communities safe
Together with their handlers, these fab five K-9s are now officially certified, ready to uphold the law and keep our communities safe

Meet The Graduates

You already caught a glimpse of them in the video but here’s a formal introduction. These are the fab five working dogs that we honored on K9 graduation day in Clearwater. They are now all doing extremely well and performing their duties to uphold Florida law.

K-9 “Logan” and handler Deputy Anthony Lorusso from Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

K-9 “Chato” and Officer Nathaniel Hansmann from Largo Police Department.

K-9 Charlie K “CK” and Officer Tommy Nguyen from Tarpon Springs Police Department.

K-9 “Smitty” and Deputy Jacob Baroff from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office

And last, but by no means least, is the duo K-9 “Taco” and Corporal Matthew Aitken, who also happens to be the course instructor. And his right hand man throughout the training period was Assistant Instructor, Deputy Robert Wilkins, from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

An impressive demonstration of discipline and obedience, working in pairs off leash
An impressive demonstration of discipline and obedience, working in pairs off leash

Action-Packed Demos

I must say it’s pretty impressive to see a really long line of K-9 cruisers circle the field with lights flashing. Then, once they were in their allotted spaces, handlers and dogs awaited signals for action. The group comprised seasoned working dogs and rookies about to join their ranks. Also, a very young little guy who totally impressed us with his smarts and cuteness. The attendees would meet him later.

Police dogs play a vital role in detecting narcotics, some eventually become dual certified patrol/narcotics K-9s
Police dogs play a vital role in detecting narcotics, some eventually become dual certified patrol/narcotics K-9s

We saw agility demonstrations consisting of jumping fences and walking in between the handler’s legs while on the go. In addition, there were narcotics and explosive device detection demos. And, of course, locating and catching bad guys with their bite technique apprehensions. 

These demos are thrilling to watch, but in actual fact the dogs bite less than 16 percent of the suspects they apprehend
These demos are thrilling to watch, but in actual fact the dogs bite less than 16 percent of the suspects they apprehend

But on K9 graduation day it was “Chaos,” the puppy-in-training, who melted everyone’s heart. I wonder how he got that name! Directed by his handler, Deputy Rob Wilkins with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit, it was immediately obvious that he was a natural. He knew exactly how to apprehend the “fake” suspect despite his juvenile stature.

Precious puppy-in-training “Chaos” showed us all that it’s never too early to learn apprehension techniques
Precious puppy-in-training “Chaos” showed us all that it’s never too early to learn apprehension techniques

Out Of The Blue

Well, we had all been promised a few surprises. And this was by far the best one of all. The noise got closer and louder. Then we saw it. The helicopter landed on the football field right in front of us. Suddenly out jumped K9 “Hector,” followed by Deputy Brad Byers, revved up to chase down another suspect. Not wasting a second, they went straight into action and got their man! That’s what I call a perfect example of how to hit the ground running!

Wow, a chopper landed at the graduation ceremony and out jumped seasoned K-9 “Hector” and his handler
Wow, a chopper landed at the graduation ceremony and out jumped seasoned K-9 “Hector” and his handler

Unexpected Dangers

Let’s pause now for a moment to think about another aspect of what’s involved here. Even though the public feels the thrill and excitement when watching these training exercises, let’s not forget that this work has very real elements of danger. Sometimes they lurk out of sight, are totally unexpected, and can have deadly consequences. One such example involved K9 “Ozzy” during an assignment where he went into a swamp. As a result, he picked up a bacterial infection that spread very rapidly. Sadly, it overwhelmed him and he couldn’t be saved.

He was certified in March 2018 and had been on duty up until November. During that short time he had already chalked up 20 catches in the City of Largo. Gone too soon, he was in his prime and had been the partner of Officer Nate Hansmann with the Largo Police Department. Nevertheless, he passed his baton to another wonderful dog and was proudly remembered. Through the graduation of this officer’s new partner, K9 “Chato” will now carry on his valuable work.

Events like these are a great opportunity for law enforcement to interact with families in the community
Events like these are a great opportunity for law enforcement to interact with families in the community

Forever Grateful

These magnificent law enforcement dogs respond every day to the call of duty. Their valor and sacrifice are a vital contribution towards keeping our communities safe. 

Thank you all for your service.

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for teasers on Facebook and LinkedIn about my next Florida K-9 story which will be published very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, please follow my pet parenting page. You’ll be able to stay up-to-date on all things dogs and cats. http://www.facebook.com/PetPeevesUnmasked/