For the next couple blogs, I wanted to share a bit about how Falco K9 Academy started and my history in the dog world. I hope you will find it interesting.
Birth of a Humane Form of Dog Training (part 1)
In 1992 Falco (my partner and police dog) and I were working patrol in the city of Anaheim. I was on a call detaining a number of gang members who were suspected of committing a violent crime. While holding the group of Gang members with Falco’s presence being used for motivation for cooperation, I heard a call describing a shooting that just occurred with 2 suspects seen running eastbound on Center St from State College Blvd. They had left the victim lying in the street with several gunshot wounds.
Approximately one hour after the call came out I was able to respond to the area to see how Falco’s senses may be used to help solve this crime. By the time we arrived the only person left on scene was the forensic specialist who processing the scene. I also saw the remnants of the medical debris from the paramedics who fought valiantly to save the victim’s life.
Up to this point, our K9 trainer had told us in the K9 Unit that “dogs can’t track”. I was also told that all I the things I had heard about the miraculous “finds” handlers were making with their “tracking” dogs was just all a myth. Little did I know, tracking was in fact possible and Falco was particularly good at this so-called “mythological” tracking behavior.
As I scanned the area I didn’t see any physical evidence that would lead me to the location of the suspects. I did know Falco and I had prepared and trained for him to locate any evidence (guns, knives, keys, etc.) that had the suspect’s odor on it. Therefore, if the suspect/s had thrown the gun they used in the shooting into a nearby bush Falco would smell the human odor and take me to it. At this time I was using the German command “such (suuk)” for searching for articles. However the command “such” was really Falco’s command to track. And track he did.
Little did I know, when I told Falco to “such” he just happened to start smelling the ground at the very spot one of the suspects had stepped as they fled the scene. As I held onto Falco’s leash I watched as he sniffed the ground (this of course known as tracking) and suddenly took off eastbound through the front yards of the homes. As I jogged behind him I felt a pull on the leash I had not felt before. He was extremely interested in following the odor he had located, and because I trusted him, I was going to follow him. Remember, I was not trained in the art of tracking. All I knew was, he had his head down and he was intent on following whatever odor he had located…I was along for the ride.
We continued through the front yards in an easterly direction and went through our fourth front yard. While on the run I saw a resident standing in their front yard and asked if he had seen two subjects run this way in the last hour or so. He said, “No, but I heard what sounded like a couple guys run down the alley about 45 minutes ago. It was right after I heard a gunshot over by State College.” There was an alley on the north side of the houses we were to the front of. Although I was talking to someone, Falco never lifted his head and continued to follow the odor. He suddenly turned north between two houses and was stopped by a block wall that divided the front yard of the homes and the alley to the rear. Falco sniffed the wall and put his paws on the wall telling me he wanted to go over. There was a gate just to the right that was unlocked. We went through the gate and Falco went back to work.
As we entered the alley, his pull became stronger and his breathing became more rapid. My heart started to pound as I drew my weapon. I was by myself and knew that it was probably time to call for a backup. However I questioned myself. I was told it was impossible for Falco to do what I thought he was doing. ‘But what if he was following the track of two armed and dangerous suspects?’ While I wasted time arguing with myself Falco had led me to the pedestrian door of a garage. This home was approximately ten homes east of where the victim was shot and over an hour after the shooting.
To be continued...