One would think that dogs training in a building full of cats would have a difficult time staying focused.  Fortunately, when the Meridian Police Department recently brought three dogs from their K-9 unit to the Meridian Western States Cat for on-going training, it wasn’t a typical dog-meets-cat scenario.

After the workday ended, dogs and officers seized the opportunity to work on narcotic detection in the parts warehouse and shop areas as well as building searches in the training room, office areas, and locker room. Officer Rick Lee, a 13-year veteran who’s spent the past six years with the K-9 unit, stressed the importance of these training sessions. “Training is a never-ending process for us,” Officer Lee said. “We train individually during our work week on everything from simple obedience to tracking or narcotics detection. Once a week we train as a unit for approximately five hours, and from time to time we also train with other agencies in the area to share ideas and challenge our dogs with new scenarios. Sorry if we knocked your boots or clothes off the benches!”

Western States is happy to provide a training ground to help the people and dogs tasked with keeping our community safe, and it seems that the feeling is mutual. “The Cat facility is an amazing place for us to train. The sheer size of the building allows us to maximize our training time and set up all types of scenarios and problems for the dogs and handlers to work through,” Officer Lee said. “The amount of rooms, both big and small, makes it a great place to set up searches. When we train dogs we are really trying to expose them to environmental things such as darkness, slick floors, stairs, metal grates; basically, anything and everything one of our dogs may encounter on the street.”

For this particular training, the three dogs present were K9 Dory and her handler Officer Tyler Marston, K9 Odin and his handler Officer Isaiah Wear and K9 Randy with his handler Officer Lee. K9 Dory is a five-year-old yellow lab purchased from the Wood River Animal Shelter in Hailey, ID, and is primarily used for narcotics detection. K9 Odin, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois imported from Europe, and K9 Randy, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois imported from the Netherlands are both patrol dogs used to locate and subdue suspects in addition to narcotics detection.

One of the first things a person notices when meeting the officers and their dogs is the deep bond between them. “Our dogs live with their handlers,” Officer Lee said. “When we purchase a new dog, the handler and new dog spend about two weeks bonding. We want the dog to understand that everything good in their life always comes from the handler.”

The dogs are purchased untrained so their training, which takes about three months to complete, can be tailored to the department’s needs. Currently, each of the Meridian officers and their dogs has more than 3,000 hours of hands-on training together. After a dog is fully trained, they work with their handler on patrol until they’re about 10 years old, when they’re retired to a dog’s life at their handler’s home. “It usually takes some time for them to accept they don’t go to work anymore, but they adapt to it. These dogs absolutely love to work so going to work each day is a big deal to them. You and I look forward to weekends. These dogs don’t – they want to go, go, go,” Officer Lee said.

We’re honored to have been able to play a little part in helping those who do so much for our communities. And, at the end of the day, all of Meridian should breathe a little easier knowing that the K-9 Unit has one more training session under its belt – and collar.