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K-9 cops put dogs through paces

DETROIT LAKES - Police cars have been all over Detroit Lakes for the last couple days it seems, but the city isn't upping its patrols.

The U.S. Police Canine Association Region 18 Field Trials took place on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Detroit Lakes hosted 90 K-9 teams from around the state, and parts of North Dakota and Wisconsin, to compete in the tests of obedience, agility, searching, and apprehension.

Competitions took place on Monday and Tuesday mornings, and a public demonstration on Monday evening at the DLHS football field drew a crowd of nearly 600.

The public demonstration began with a parade of police cars down North Shore Drive, all of which had turned on their flashing lights.

After the teams parked their cars near the field, they lined up with their German shepherds and were introduced.

The K-9 team that had received a high score in the event earlier that day then performed demonstrations of each phase of competition.

During the obedience portion, which featured Moorhead Officer John Lien and his dog Hickok, Lien walked at varying speeds around a square of cones, and Hickok followed next to him exactly in stride. No matter which way he turned or if he broke into a jog, Hickok was right at his side.

Rice Lake, Wis, Officer Steve Roux and his dog Morgan, showed off their skills during the article search.

Morgan was given a 30-foot by 30-foot square of football field and was instructed to search for two small items, a key on a ring and an expended shotgun shell.

During competition, articles are drawn from a hat. Besides the shotgun shell and the key, dogs search for a book of matches, a metal gun, a plastic credit card, a screwdriver and a piece of leather.

Agility testing was next, and the white fences and A-frame contraptions littered the field for Eagan Officer Andy Helgerson and his dog Maverick.

Maverick quickly jumped over three fences in a row, then climbed a six-foot tall A-frame with only a few ledges as footholds.

One K-9 team even demonstrated a narcotics search of a car, which was driven onto the field.

The dog promptly found the "dope."

"Dogs work all day for a little praise..," the announcer said. "Sometimes the dope is there."

One dog had to find a decoy hiding in a box. Three boxes, large enough to fit a person, were lined up in the field, and a fellow officer climbed in the third one while the dog and handler walked to the other end of the field.

The dog was supposed to check every box to find the decoy, but the announcer said the decoy's scent must have traveled with the wind, because the dog skipped the first two boxes and went straight for the third - the one the decoy was in.

K-9 teams also demonstrated the attack and apprehension series'.

A decoy - the guy that gets bit - runs for a ways and the dog is instructed to either stay or go chase the decoy. One variation has the dog chase halfway but get called back.

When the dog gets to chase down the decoy, he bites his arm and holds the decoy until the handler can get there and call the dog off.

But the biggest kicker of all came when Detroit Lakes Officer Robert Strand took the microphone and said he was going to release a big dog from his car, instructing kids to back up because the dog could jump the fence.

Finally, when the kids yelled "Open" on Strand's three-count, he opened the door of his squad car and out jumped a German shepherd puppy, not more than a few months old.

Children fawned over the puppy as her owner brought her through the crowd.

Finally, a MeritCare Life Flight chopper circled the area and landed on the football field for kids to tour.

Families were also invited to meet the other dogs.

Tuesday finished the competition at DLHS and at the Middle School, followed by an awards ceremony in the afternoon.

Strand said he thought the whole competition went "excellent."

"From the number of people to the public demonstration yesterday, it went great," he said. "I've heard a lot of guys say how much they enjoyed the community."

Strand and his dog Macho received their qualification, but only "by the skin of our teeth," he said.

Strand said he had to "detach" Macho from the decoy, which cost him points.

Teams that garner 560 of the possible 700 points qualify for the national competition in Raleigh, N.C. this September.

Overall "Top Dogs" were Russell Garvey and dog Rico from Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, Mike Vonderharr and dog Hugo from Bloomington, Brady Harrison and dog Sully from St. Paul, Brigham Strole and dog Blue from Lakeville, and Steve Roux and dog Morgan from Rice Lake, Wis.

All five teams will advance to nationals.

The "Top Rookie Dog" went to Ryan Carey and dog Cuda from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Carey and Cuda also took the top honor in the Apprehension category, followed by John Sherwood and Benji from St. Paul and Justin Vogel and Duke from Moorhead.

Top honors in the Obedience category went to John Lien and Hickok from Moorhead with a perfect score, with David Longbehn and Kody from St. Paul and Gary Pearl and Gus from Ramsey County Sheriff's Office behind.

Sherwood and Benji also took the Suspect Search category with a perfect score, followed by Lisa Daly and Phoenix from Ramsey County, and Carey and Cuda.

In the Evidence Recovery category, top three were Mark Richert and Matrix from Forest Lake and Mike McAlpine and Deuce, who tied with a perfect score of 70, followed by Ken Baker and Tarzan from the Rock County Sheriff's Office.

The Agility award went to Andy Helgerson and Maverick from Eagan, followed by Matt Wieland and Agent from Washington County Sheriff's Office. Daly and Phoenix and Mark Beckman with dog Brutus from Minnesota Department of Corrections in Faribault tied for third place with a score of 59.

The top regional team went to the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, consisting of Daly and dog Phoenix, Steve Lally and dog Cody, Garvey and dog Rico and Pearl with dog Gus.

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