Document Sample
canine Powered By Docstoc
					Photo courtesy of Lindsay This Week
Constable Jeff Wentworth knows his dog better than he knows his best friend. He and Flint can read each other's emotions just by looking at each other. Sitting in his Lindsay backyard, Flint is let out of his cage and is ordered to lay on the grass. The wind blows across his face and rustles his dark hair. Flint's ears are perked up and he sniffs the air for any unfamiliar scents. Ready for his next command, the Black Sable German Shepherd continually looks up at his master for instruction. As their eyes lock you can tell they are more than coworkers. Const. Wentworth of the Lindsay Police Service is in charge of the canine unit and he has been living and working with Flint for four years now. "He's always got a beat on me," said Const. Wentworth. Flint stays in a cage outdoors when he's not working but Const. Wentworth said it's not to be mean. "He stays outdoors to keep climatized. In the winter if he was indoors all the time, he'd be used to the warmth," said Const. Wentworth. And if Flint was used to being warm, he wouldn't want to chase criminals through the snow. Flint was purchased for $2,500 from a kennel in Brooklin, Ontario and training began almost right away. "I had to go through training first," said Const. Wentworth. He said he needed to meet specific qualifications in order to be a dog handler. "As a police officer you have to be willing to dedicate time to the dog. You also have to be in good shape," added Const. Wentworth. "If the dog is going to be jumping over fences you don't want to slow them down," he said. Const. Wentworth had to run for three kilometres in a bush area, then Flint was sent out to bite him while wearing protective gear. "You also have to be able to carry a 70-pound hockey bag and throw it over a six-foot wall," said Const. Wentworth. "In case you have to lift the dog over a wall." Const. Wentworth is the only officer who trains Flint because he can read Flint's body language and doesn't want Flint to obey orders from anyone else. "If we're out for a walk and he makes a quick turn, I'm in tune with his body language. Either he smells something we should check out or it's nothing-- he's just being a dog," said Const. Wentworth. "But if he's on a track he'll pull me so hard I know it," he added. Flint is trained to use his skills for all sorts of criminal activities like finding drugs, missing children or chasing down criminals. "He can smell marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methadone and he's now smelling out magic mushrooms," said Const. Wentworth. A 'narc' bag is hidden in a room and Flint searches it out. If he's successful, he gets to play with a Kong toy for a few minutes. But he doesn't get to play like a normal dog would. He only plays when Const. Wentworth allows him to and Flint is not allowed to be petted by anyone. When finding people, Flint can sniff out someone hidden in a store or a field. "In a store there's an air current in every room. Flint will find the source of the human scent and track them down," said Const. Wentworth. "I've sent my son out to do open field searches with him. The field is bigger than the size of a football field and Flint almost gets whiplash once he picks up on the scent," he said. Even when running after a criminal, Flint is attached to Const. Wentworth with a 30-foot line. "One time we were training in the snow and he was running so fast down a hill that I busted my ankle," said Const. Wentworth.

Once a week, Flint is taken through rigorous training drills to keep him fresh and every day he heads out for a four-kilometre run with Const. Wentworth on his bicycle. "I ride my bike so there's no confusion. It is for training and it's not a real situation," he said. "It's important for me to keep his abilities up or he's not going to pass the next certification test," said Const. Wentworth. Every year, he and Flint travel back to the dog trainer in Niagara Falls for a re-certification test. "He's so much more confident than other police dogs," said Const. Wentworth. "All police dogs have a different personality and he pushes things further sometimes so I have to be strict with him." Flint is trained to bite but Const. Wentworth said it's not a regular occurrence. "There's a prey drive where he will bite and hold on, keeping the person there," he said. "Flint will also bite if he has to protect his own life." For the most part, Flint's bark is enough to keep a criminal at bay. Earlier this summer Flint was used to stop a burglar stealing items from a store in the Lindsay Square Mall. He barked until the suspect surrendered and police were able to make an arrest. Flint has also won awards from the Canadian Law Enforcement Games in 1998 for his searching skills. Const. Wentworth said that with all of the training, Flint is now probably worth $25,000 but he doesn't want to put a price on Flint's head. The two will continue to be partners even after Flint retires. "He'll probably work until he's nine-years-old and then he'll stay with me but I've heard of police dogs that have a hard time retiring," said Const. Wentworth.