Officer Brad Smith watches as Steele sniffs out the drugs in a training exercise in Marysville this week. (Steve Powell/Staff Photo)

Taking a bite out of crime no easy task

MARYSVILLE – Officers Derek Oates and Brad Smith are finding it hard to replace the old with the new. They both are having to change their longtime partners, after their previous ones retired.

They are two of the Marysville Police Department’s K9 officers, who are in the process of training new dogs. Ranger is now Oates’ family dog after the pair had worked together for years.

“It’s hard to leave a partner after thousands of hours” together, Oates said. What makes it even tougher is his new dog, Copper, “doesn’t know anything – to sit, stay or heel.”

Oates added, “He’s a ball of energy.” At home, Oates said he doesn’t let the two German Shepherds mix. “They admire each other from afar,” he said.

Oates said Ranger wouldn’t be able to help Copper learn.

“He’s an alpha male,” Oates said of Ranger. “He’s got a pack animal mentality. He’s the boss.”

Oates said he doesn’t let his kids around the new dog much yet. “He’s got no manners. He jumps on the counters,” he said.

Smith lets his retired dog, a black lab named Katy, mix with his new Belgian Malinois named Steele. Smith said his new dog is less aggressive than Katy.

“Katy lived to work. This one is very social. We won’t have to worry so much about complaints,” like biting, he said, even though he had no problems with Katy.

Even so, Smith doesn’t let the dog around his kids much either.

“He’s too rough” for them, he said, adding the kids are putting peanut butter on their hands and letting Copper lick it off to help their bonding.

Oates said the two new dogs, which cost $7,200 each, are being trained both to track down criminals and sniff out drugs. Training can take up to 600 hours.

The three drugs they are learning the odor of are heroin, meth and cocaine. After finding the scent, Steele sits and stares, while Copper has been taught to scratch at the site. “They’re so smart,” Smith said.

Oates said they try to make it fun for the dogs. “Everything they do is a game,” Smith added.

When picking out K9 dogs, they look for ones that love to hunt.

“They will search and search and not stop until they find it,” Smith said. The department has a new board that “helps train the dogs better,” Oates said.

The board has dozens of holes drilled in it. The officer will point at a hole, and the dog will sniff it for the drug. When they find it, they are rewarded with a PVC pipe they chew on.

“That’s the greatest toy in the world,” Oates said.

Copper can get through the board quicker than Steele. “You have to go at the dog’s pace,” Oates said.

Smith said the dogs get confused when taken from their training area. Something they can do easily there can be a chore at another location.

“We are constantly taking them to different environments,” he said.

The MPD K9 program, which started in 2001, gets support from all over the community. Different businesses, agencies and groups have donated everything from the training facility to supplies to build a kennel. It even has its own Facebook page, where people can follow the animals or donate money to help.

A K9 vodka is in the works, and the K9 supervisor, Sgt. Adam Vermeulen, was wearing a sweatshirt with a K9 on it.

Vermeulen said the community loves the dogs and their handlers. They put on demonstrations at various community events, such as the annual National Night Out, along with working with the Boy Scouts and victims of domestic violence.

“They are so dedicated they make my job easy,” the sergeant said. “They take it home with them.”

Oates and Smith said they actually have fun training the dogs. They try to push them to the limit before calling the dogs off.

“They’ll be diving (at the target) with their mouth open, and we’ll yell ‘out’ to get them to stop,” Oates said. “Our goal is not to bite people, but to locate them and get the bad guys to give up.”

Smith said it’s all about trust. “We want them to know if they let go they’ll get it back,” he said of the toys. Smith said despite the frustrations, overall he enjoys training the dogs.

“Watching them learn – catch on,” he said.

“Again and again and again,” Oates joked, referring how dogs love to play over and over. Oates said he has always been a dog lover, but Smith has become “a dog person now.”

Both said dogs are critical to the force. “We’d never find them (criminals) the way the dogs do,” Oates said.

More in News

Inslee: Stay home for 2 weeks

By Jerry Cornfield and Zachariah Bryan The Herald OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay… Continue reading

Fences have been put up around Marysville playgrounds to keep kids off. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville leaders concerned as (almost) everything’s closing

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – Within hours of Gov. Jay Inslee’s… Continue reading

Briefly

Beware of coronavirus scams SEATTLE – U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran is… Continue reading

Jennifer Thompson, left, and her father Ron Thompson secure a new remembrance plaque to the Oso slide site gate on Sunday, near Oso. Ron Thompson handcrafts a new plaque for the gate every year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Community remembers Oso slide victims, survivors

By Ben Watanabe The Herald OSO — The power of remembering the… Continue reading

People gather to pick up special allergy meals before leaving Lakewood High School on Wednesday in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Districts taking meals to students since schools are closed

By Stephanie Davey The Herald LAKEWOOD — Children wearing pajamas stood outside… Continue reading

Jon Nehring
Letter about coronavirus from Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring

This is an edited version of a letter Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring… Continue reading

DOUGLAS BUell/Staff Photos
                                Lead cook Keina Gowins with Presidents Elementary hands out free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to students and parents outside the school Wednesday. Presidents and AHS serve as central kitchen sites for preparing meals, which starting next week will expand to 12 delivery sites from Silvana to Oso. Right, Arlington Food Bank executive director Carla Gastineau and Mike Simpson, food bank board president and owner of Arlington Grocery Outlet, partnered with the district with their Meals Til Monday program, and gave a woman a box of donated food while at Presidents.
Arlington students won’t go hungry during the COVID-19 school closures

ARLINGTON – Arlington schools are closed through April 24 to help fight… Continue reading

Scott Beebe hands out Chromebooks to people in their cars. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville parents anxious to pick up school materials for kids

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – A few days ago Marysville schools… Continue reading

Jon Nehring
Marysville leaders’ trip to D.C. productive

MARYSVILLE – City leaders recently obtained advice on how to get more… Continue reading

Crews will blow garbage into the street and sweep it up over the next few weeks. The city is asking people to move their cars, trash cans and recycle bins when they come around to help them do a thorough job. (Courtesy Photo)
Marysville shuffles workers due to virus, seeks public’s help for sweepers next week

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe. MARYSVILLE – From working from home to teleconferencing… Continue reading

Arlington closed until April 24 amid COVID-19 outbreak: what’s next?

ARLINGTON – When Arlington public school leaders met for a special meeting… Continue reading