National K9 Veterans' Day is March 13th, honoring all military and working dogs for their service and sacrifice for our nation. This month, we are recognizing our country's dedicated service dogs and their handlers, who serve and have served our community!
For this week's special Working Dog Wednesday, we are featuring a handsome black lab named Shade, and his partner Chief Keith Hutcheson. Shade spent the first 2 years of his life in tough conditions overseas in Iraq, working 6 days a week as an Explosives Detection dog. Now, at 5 and a half years young, he spends his time responding to calls in North Idaho as well as relaxing at home. Meet Shade, the most kind, gentle pup who loves to use his nose to find more than just a slice of pizza!
How did you and Shade meet?
I was overseas in Iraq doing contract work. I was working with Shade's brother, actually, and Shade was over there too. Shade had been in Iraq for 2 years working as an Explosives Detection K9, and his handler at the time was planning on sending him home, so I said 'I'd love to take him!' I've had him from that point on. Now we work in the States with the Spirit Lake Police Department. We help out anywhere we can, mostly in the North Idaho area. When we get a call, we'll go to crime scenes looking for guns and evidence, and we do Explosives Detection work as well.
What is the training involved for an Explosives Detection dog?
We’ve been deploying Shade on calls for all different kinds of explosives. He also does Articles and Evidence, which is what we've been working on. Anything like guns, gun pieces, and evidence that needs to be found on crime scenes. So, training is a constant, everyday thing. Practicing and working, honing their skills just like humans, and practicing for myself by reading him and seeing changes in behavior. The stuff that we're finding isn't just like walking through a park and ‘Hey there it is!’ because everybody can find that stuff. Everything we have to find is usually in a difficult spot, on the side of a hill, in woods of some sort, or in bushes. It’s just honing the skills between the K9 team, and just working everyday. Finding that odor can vary with the wind, atmospheric changes, the way the scent moves, so you constantly need to be out there training. It's a day in day out thing. It’s fun. Shade lives to work. He loves, loves, loves to work!
Photo Credit: CDA Press
Why are dogs so beneficial for finding explosives?
The benefit is that they can use their nose. The olfactory system is what breaks down the dog's nose for them and the olfactory receptors can individually scent things out. Humans have minds that generalize things, while dogs have brains with a specialty of honing in on a certain odor. Humans have lazier minds to where they generalize things. For example, when a person walks into a room, they know what pizza smells like, but if the dog walks into the same room, they smell the pepperoni, the individual herbs, the cheese, and the ingredients in the sauce. That’s how they can break everything down in their mind because they have the capability of doing that with their nose. It's amazing to watch them work. When Shade finds a weapon or explosive, he sits and stares at it to alert us. As soon as he sits, we’re like ‘okay, we’ve got to go.’
You can have all the tools in the world, but he's the best tool because dogs are incapable of lying. That’s just the biggest thing to be able to do, just work with the dog. When they sit, you know there's something going on. If they don't sit, then ‘hey we're good to go.’ It's peace of mind knowing it’s not a tool messing up or a human saying ‘there might be or might not be something here.’ The dog will tell you.
What are your favorite memories with Shade?
My favorite memory is just how kind he is, and what he's been through the first 4 years of his life, because he was so regimented in a place where conditions are very rough.
‘He was searching 200-300 vehicles per day, six days a week, for explosives (CDA Press).’
Having him here back in the States now, he's just loving it. Being a dog, getting to play, it’s not just day in day out dealing with the conditions over there in Iraq. He's so kind; he's just very gentle around children. He goes in to take a picture with kids and goes HAM! The kids will get around him, then I’ll say ‘get closer’ and the kids are like right on top of Shade, and hands all over him. Then Shade turns perfectly sideways and gives you the perfect pose. On our downtime we relax, and let him be a dog. He sleeps on the couch, he sleeps on our bed. He's a dog.
Shade loves to do his job, but you can see him appreciate life. He's got a kind face, never barks. Shade’s a talker, he just grunts and talks to you. Anytime we get to deploy him it is great because if we can get a gun, or help out with a case, or get some dangerous weapon or something off the street, that's my favorite memory. Just anything we can do to make the public safe. Everything he's done. The deployment lines or a bomb call or something like that, where somebody thinks there's something suspicious. We can go through and clear it, it gives us peace of mind knowing it has been checked and everything is okay.
Photo Credit: CDA Press
Is there anything else you would like to add on?
Thank you to the public for all of the support they give to the K9s. We couldn't do it without them!
Also, I'm so grateful for what Impact Dog Crates has done. Before, if I would separate from Shade, he would get a little bit of separation anxiety, but that's when Impact came in. They gave me a High Anxiety Crate for the house and now that is Shade's home spot, it's his area and he likes it.
Thank you Chief Keith Hutcheson for taking the time to answer our questions for Working Dog Wednesday. We appreciate all of your hard work, as well as Shade's dedication, to serve and protect our Country! Also, thank you Shade for being such an awesome working dog and Impact Pup!
Shade is also a part-time model.
CDA Press Article: http://www.cdapress.com/archive/article-eada6c6a-e280-11e5-8a2e-77a767e7b2a5.html