Dogs, deputies have special bond
Coming changes include departure of Deputy Melvin and Nyx, arrival of German shepherd Mia
Changes are under way in the Logan County Sheriff’s Office K9 corps.
Sheriff Brett Powell announced this week that Deputy Madison Melvin will join the Weld County Sheriff’s Office K9 units in December. Melvin and Nyx, the 5-year-old German shepherd with whom she is partnered, will be Weld County’s sixth K9 team.
Melvin said the move is partially precipitated by her fiancé’s anticipated re-assignment for Western Sugar.
“He’ll be spending a lot more time in Greeley, and I’ve trained with Weld County before, so when I heard they had an opening, it looked like a good time to make the move,” Melvin said.
Melvin will be replaced by Deputy Morgan Sherwood, a recent transfer from Sterling Police Department where she handled SPD’S Vader. Sherwood’s life partner, Sgt. Dustin Fisher, is the handler for LCSO’S dog Kane, so the lateral transfer was a natural
move for her. She did not get to take Vader with her, however, and is awaiting the arrival of Mia, a female German shepherd, soon.
The three deputies are members of an elite corps of law enforcement officers that is becoming more in demand as the job of policing becomes more dangerous. Logan County’s dogs are used for a variety of tasks including tracking, clearing buildings, finding lost children, sniffing out drugs and apprehension, among others.
Fisher said the Sheriff’s Office has deployed its dogs 34 times since March. One such deployment by Melvin and Nyx earned the duo the Narcotics Case of the Year Award from the Colorado Police Canine Association.
While the handlers refer to their dogs as partners, it’s clear that the bond between dog and human goes much deeper than two people sharing a patrol car. When Fisher brought Kane into the department’s training room, Kane immediately went to Deputy Sherwood, smothering her with over 110 pounds of canine affection. When Fisher called him back, Kane sat, alert, looking at his handler with what can only be described as adoration.
As for the civilian in the room? The reporter was allowed a brief ear-scratching, and then was ignored.
The affection goes both ways, Fisher explained.
“It’s a passion, you make a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “He’s with me almost 24 hours a day, and when we’re not on shift, we’re on call.”
All three of the handlers learned to love dogs at an early age, and all went into law enforcement wanting to do K9 service.
“My long-term goal was to get into federal law enforcement, but when I was in the police academy, they had a demonstration with a bunch of dogs, and I knew I wanted it then,” Melvin said.
Her desire for K9 work was reinforced by her work as an MP with the Colorado National Guard. Melvin said she’s unable to become an MP dog handler because only active duty soldiers can apply.
Sherwood said her family adopted a retired personal protection dog when she was in junior high school, and that’s what in
spired her to seek K9 work.
“There’s a real connection between people and dogs,” she said. “It’s one of the most rewarding relationships people can have.”
There can be down sides to the work, however. The average police dog has a career of around five to eight years, which means an officer will have — and lose — more than one dog in his or her career. Sherwood said when she left the police department, the separation from Vader was nothing less than heartbreaking, for both of them.
“I heard that when he heard my voice on the radio, he’d whine,” she said. “He had a new handler, so I couldn’t even visit him, and that was hard. It took months for that to heal.”
Melvin said the dogs, like people, have personalities and sometimes they
just have off days.
“Sometimes he wakes up in the morning and it’s like he says, ‘Not today, nope,’” she said. “You can’t reason with him, so I’ll do some box drills, see if I can get him to go to work. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s one of the challenges.”
Box drills involve a series of wooden boxes, with a treat hidden in one of them. The dog sniffs out the treat and is rewarded, which makes work look fun again.
The handlers work out with their dogs every day, whether on duty or not. And there aren’t many options if the officer wants some “down time.” The K9s can be boarded for short periods, but week-long vacations away from the dogs are out of the question.
“They’re definitely a focal point in your life,” Fisher said.
The inconvenience, however, is more than offset by the pleasure of watching the dogs do what they do best, and that’s working.
Apprehensions are far easier just with a dog’s presence, Fisher said, and the dogs don’t question or hesitate when given a command. “He knows what his job is, and I know that he knows what he’s doing,” Fisher said.