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HUBBARD COUNTY K-9 OFFICER DAN KRUCHOWSKI and his new partner, Oakley, ended up assisting Becker County in a real-life search for dope and a fleeing felon while in Detroit Lakes for the competition.1 / 2
ONE COMMON TASK K-9's are required to do is sniff out drugs. This canine cop began scratching wildly at the crack of the car door once he detected the scent.2 / 2

They were seen all around Detroit Lakes -- police vehicles from New York, Florida, the Twin Cities.

Eighty-four officers from all over the U.S. were sniffing around town, and they brought their human counterparts with them.

They were part of the National 2011 United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), and they were here for the National Trials.

These dog handlers and their K9 partners had to qualify at regional events to get to Detroit Lakes, and it is here that they determined who is the best of the best.

Wednesday night the public got a chance to witness the sharp talent of these animals during a public demonstration at the High School football field.

Dogs were barking and police sirens rang out, one after another, from a seemingly endless line of squad cars, signifying the start of the event.

The weather was cold and windy, but the bleachers were still full, as onlookers wrapped up in blankets and hats.

"This is just awesome," said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten, "We've been working on putting this together for about a year and a half, and everything's been just great."

All 84 officers walked proudly onto the field for an introduction with their K9 partners, beginning with Detroit Lakes Sergeant Robert Strand and his dog, Macho.

Macho was amongst a group of powerful friends, though -- like Axel, Maximus, Tonto, Maverick, Rocco, Brutus, Diesel, Rex and many more.

Detroit Lakes student Emma Wood belted out the National Anthem, followed by the color guard posting its colors and the crowd pausing for moment of silence for officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Former K9 handler, Lt. Steve Pearson of Brooklyn Park, emceed the event.

"Officers that handle the dogs this well don't do it by sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, they do it by working their butts off," Pearson told the crowd.

It showed.

The officers demonstrated their dogs' abilities in areas such as obedience, evidence search, and suspect search.

Trained noses sniffed their way to impressive finds of evidence in the grass, narcotics in a car and a suspect hiding in a wooden box.

Finding what they're looking for is just the start -- it's how the dogs react to the find that sets them apart.

"Once the dog smells human odor, they bark," explained Pearson, "They will scratch or bite at the box to get in there until the handler calls the dog back in a finished position where they wait until the suspect comes out."

Criminal apprehension seemed to be a fan favorite, as one K9 showed the crowd how he could apprehend the running 'suspect,' who was another officer wearing a protective arm pad.

"I thought the guy had a broken arm and the dog was gonna hurt him," said seven-year-old Riley Nelson of Detroit Lakes as she watched from the stand.

What impressed Detroit Lakes resident Sarah Hudson was the pure control handlers had over the dogs.

"When that dog took off after the suspect, and the officer called him back half way there, and he listened, that was pretty cool because I trained dogs in 4-H, and I know what it takes to get your dog to just stop when he's running hard and come back like that."

Command after command, the dogs displayed incredible discipline, always being rewarded with a pet, a scratch, a toy, a treat or a 'good boy.'

Officer Kiel Stevenson of Marshalltown, Iowa, had never been to a national competition before this, and says Detroit Lakes and its officers have set the bar high.

"I was very impressed to come into a small town like this and see how organized everything is, and now all these people showing up for the demonstration ... it's great," Stevenson said.

His fiancé, Celsey Hobson, says she's been amazed at how incredibly nice everybody is here.

"We wish the weather had been a little better, but I'll tell you what -- we have never met friendlier people going out to eat and being around town as we have here," said Hobson.

Meanwhile, local hotels have been pretty full for the event, providing accommodations for even the hairiest of customers.

"The dogs are staying right with us in the hotel," said Hubbard County Officer Dan Kruchowski, who brought his new dog of two months, Oakley.

But since the nationals started, it hasn't been all play for Kruchowski and Oakley.

"Becker County had a call for K9 assistance, so I got permission from Hubbard and we went out there to help," said Kruchowski, "So he (Oakley) attempted a track looking for a fleeing felon, who ended up not being there, and then he assisted on a dope search."

It's a ruff job, but somebody's got to do it.

Most of these hounds high-tailed it out of town after the event wrapped up Friday.

For highlights from Wednesday's public demonstration, go to and click on the National K9 Competition video.