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Unit


is time to wrap up each dog’s time on the grass, it ends when they have done something positive and correct, thus leaving a memory of success in the dog’s mind.


The training for these dogs is intense, and the


cost for each is substantial, running around $12,000 to obtain each dog. For their handlers though, these animals are priceless, serving as not just a partner, but also a part of the family. “They are pets, really, because they live at home


with us,” says Kootenai County Sheriff Deputy Nate Nelson, who along with his dog, Iron, a Slovakian- born German Shepard, joins the Wednesday-night trainings. “It’s a 9 to 5 job for them, though. When he hears the click when I put my vest on, or as soon as I start the car, he freaks out and knows it is time to work.” “They are basically like our own dogs,” says Hamilton. “I’ve had Leo for two and a half years, and he’s very social.” Hamilton and Leo have proved to be a great


match. They earned the 2010 Top Dog Award. This award is given each year by the Spokane Police Department K-9 Unit to a handler/dog team. According to their website, “Each team competes in ten different events such as obedience, fastest building search, fastest track, fastest area search, shooting, and the unit’s qualifying run, along with the most finds for the year.” It’s not all work and no play for the dogs, though. “Most of us have kids, so they play with the dogs when we are at home,” says Hamilton. For his family, Leo is as much a part of the family as any of them, and is a beloved pet that just happens to also hold down a full-time job. “I am emotionally attached to him for sure,” says Jensen of his relationship with Duke. “The dogs bond with us initially. As the handler, you want to be at the top of their hierarchy. I have three boys and a wife at home. Once he [Duke] earned their trust he was fine, but initially, Duke wasn’t very social.” It’s not just the officers and their families that


have a soft spot in their hearts for the dogs. “Even the bad guys like the dogs,” says Hamilton.


“We’ve had them getting fixed up in the hospital after they’ve been caught, and they’ll want to spit on us, but they’ll say, ‘that was a great dog. Is the dog okay?’” Perhaps its the furry coats and soft ears, or their determined spirits, but the dogs of the Spokane Police Department K-9 Unit are able to impact the department positively and are an incredible asset. “I think we do a good job with the K-9s,” says


Teigen. “These dogs are an extension of us. They do a tremendous job.”


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o learn more about the dogs and handlers in the Spokane P


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