Being able to attend Decoy school with Wade Morrell, and the Franklin County Ohio Sheriffs Department K9 Unit, has been an HONOR and a PRIVILEGE. I can’t really express it any better than those words. But I will add this less than formal descriptor: It was a FREAKING blast!!!!
Every one of us owes a debt to the men and women of law enforcement. Some of us know that better than others. The work they do, the training they undergo, the risks they take every day, and the stress that they and their families live with around the clock make our “Thanks” to them morally mandatory. Keep them in mind, please. They are there for You and Me, and way too many citizens have an underlying “dislike” for any number of stupid reasons. You got a speeding ticket on your way to work, and that ticks you off. (Get Up in Time and Don’t SPEED down I-71 at 80 mph!!!) You might feel that they should mind their own business and let you set fire to a disused sofa if you want. (THAT IS their business. It’s illegal, dangerous, and stupid on your part. Unfortunately, the Police Officer is there to protect you from your stupid self.) Obey the laws, and the nice police officer will drive by and wave at you. Break the law, and they’ll protect the rest of us from YOU.
I’ve had the honor and privilege to join with these professionals this week for training in the art of K-9 Decoy Training for the Franklin County, Ohio Sheriffs Department K-9 Unit. Not only do they train hard, and work hard, they spend inordinate amounts of time thinking of ways to do their job better. If you can’t respect that, then you are part of the problem in our society.
This is not intended as a rant. But I feel it important to tell you about some of the Officers that serve the County in which I live, and that have welcomed me into their somewhat insular world, if only for a short three day period. This is my way of saying “Thank You” to these hard-working officers for the respect that they have shown me, and the ad hoc camaraderie of working with dogs for a purpose.
It started when I was invited to attend the 3 day Decoy Training Seminar by Mr. Wade Morrell of Bite-Works, Priority One Canine, and now The Franklin County Sheriffs Department, K9 Unit, which he will soon be joining as an officer. Wade is arguably one the best instructors in the world for work with K9’s. Strategies, tactics, and techniques, he’s been there done that, and improved on it. All over the Planet. Probably thousands of students, if not 10’s of thousands. He studies what happens, how dogs react and respond in nearly every conceivable situation, (and a few INCONCEIVABLE ones as well) and adds those to his lengthy resume’ . He’s a Master Teacher. Not only that, but he manages to inspire every student to keep building on their skills, and their dogs as well. The fact is, the dogs themselves are probably most benefitted by Wades attention. Handlers and decoys both end up with more capable dogs. Wade guides the dogs into the next level of Police work with skill, enthusiasm, and fairness. Is Wade a Purely Positive Trainer? No…But these dogs CANNOT BE TRAINED by those methods. If you are wrong-headed enough to believe that these four-legged warriors CAN be trained that way, with clickers and endless treats, then you are deluded and ignorant. But know this from someone that has seen it with his own eyes, Wade Morrell is never abusive, vicious, or thoughtless toward any dog or Handler. But he understands the use of Discipline and Correction as only long experience can demonstrate in full use, and I’ve seen dogs take stellar leaps this week. Anyone that wants to argue that proof, will have a large array to face. And you won’t win. Why he asked me to be a part of this school escapes my understanding, but I’m not going to disappoint him. Thats the sort of loyalty he creates by his professionalism, enthusiasm, and supportive nature. (Okay…so the guy has flawless hair and great pecs, big deal)
That’s the tip of this iceberg. I’m going to personally mention a couple of the other Deputy’s by name, but everyone there made me feel a part of the team, and I am grateful to each of them in turn. They are professional in every way, and they are also good people. Even the more unusual of them…Speaking of which,I’ve arrived at Deputy Sheriff Michael Severance. Nearly 28 years on the K9 Unit himself. He’s handled 6 other canines in those years. If you look up the word “venerable” in the dictionary, Severance’s photo is there. He’s a true veteran of Law Enforcement. He’s also sarcastic, honest, profane, and deeply respected by his peers. He’s been in Law Enforcement for nearly 40 years, seen it all, done it all. He’s rumored to have been a Shotgunner on the Stagecoach in his early career. (I told you he’s been around for awhile) I’m positive that if things get scary on the job, Michael Severance is probably your first choice to have backing you up. His current German shepherd partner is named “Jack”. He’s Severance in a fur coat. Experienced, Tough as Nails, and eager to serve. And just bitter enough to really be funny. And I say all of this in spite of the fact that he pulled me over on I-270 about a year ago and gave me a ticket for unsecured load. That was the first time I met him and his dog. Even after all of the clean-up on the highway, and writing me up, I asked him about his dog. Jacks name was on the side of his cruiser. Michael talked enthusiastically about Jack and K-9 work in general. I came away with a $107.00 dollar ticket, and thrilled to have met him. I’m even more thrilled to have spent time training with him. Thank you for your time and attention to this civilian newbie Michael. You are good man. And thank Jack for giving me a beat down on the sleeve on the first day. That dog is a real Timberwolf…
Another Deputy that really impressed me for his work ethic and dedication to learning everything about dog handling was Austin Francescone. Austin jumped into the sleeves and bitesuits again and again, learning more every time. His focus on learning the foundation of Canine Handling, and then soaking in the nuances made me more focused on what we were being taught. Good work Austin, it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that officers like you are out there.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the K9 Unit Sargeant, Aaron Heflin. He has recently taken the proverbial bull by the horns and is developing the K9 Unit into what may well become the most effective, well-trained K9 Unit in this country. He’s making great decisions, and the unit is enthusiastically behind him. No doubt that his determination to be the best will produce that here in central Ohio. His dog, Vando, is also a highly skilled and well -trained K9.
I must name the remaining members of the unit. ALL of them are working toward a common goal of becoming the very best Peace Officers and Dog Handlers… I look forward to being able to work with them again and showing you the photographs I’ve taken so that you can see them at work.
Deputy James McCoy– He handles K9 “Riddick” a big Malinois that has the distinction of taking this writer to the ground and making me struggle to regain my compusure and footing! What FUN!!!
Deputy Jeremy Copas- Another great dog handler that leaves everything on the field, every time! He’s as driven as his dog “Atrey”.
Deputy Jon Dillon- Jon is guiding his beautiful Black German Shepherd “Myra” thru the vagaries and disciplines of bitesuit work. Watching Jon spark his own enthusiasm watching Myra make strides is truly inspiring to THIS dog-trainer. Myra is the most photogenic dog on the squad, as my pictures will attest.
Deputy Michael Durbin- His dog “Udet” is a terror if you’re the guy in the suit. He’s a “go-too” decoy.
Deputy (Corporal) Jeff Valentine-Jeff was Mr. Ambassador to this civilian. First guy to introduce himself and make sure that I felt part of the group. He obviously loves being on the K9 Unit, and he and his GSD “Will” should be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.
I want to thank each and every one of you officers and give you the official “German Shepherd Adventures”4 paws up salute! I look forward to being able to train with you all again soon and continuing my own learning curve with the Officers who do this everyday! Stay safe and get home every night!!! This is only the first of what will be several posts connected to The Wade Morrell/Franklin County Sheriffs K9 unit seminar! Stay tuned for more!!!!