COLLIERS - A report written by a local boy about dogs who work with humans in various ways led to a visit to Colliers Primary School Thursday by a Weirton Police K-9 Unit.
Jake Parr, a pupil in Holly Yarter's fourth-grade class, wrote the report, a selection that was natural because his family once had a retired police dog for their pet.
His mother, Jeana, explained she and her husband, Dale, made Weirton police dog Faulk their pet following his retirement in 2000 and the experience led Jake to write about police dogs and other canines that assist humans, including those that work with the military to identify hidden explosives.
CRIMEFIGHTING PAIR — Weirton Patrolman Jeff Miller and his police dog, Timmy, discussed how the two work together during a visit Thursday to Colliers Primary School. Miller’s visit was arranged by Jeana Parr, whose son Jake is a pupil there and wrote about a retired police dog who became their pet. -- Warren Scott
Jeana said Faulk was 7 when he retired and lived for several more years with the family at their farm off McKims Ridge. She and her husband had to undergo criminal background checks because Faulk had been trained to attack when needed, though the pair was never taught the German word used to command him to do so.
Jeana said Faulk was mild-mannered, which made him a good candidate to be a pet for someone outside law enforcement. She said Faulk was quite gentle with her father, a retired Wintersville police officer who lived with them while undergoing cancer treatment; her son and another family dog.
Jake, who included a photo of Faulk in his report, said though he was very young when Faulk was their pet, he remembered playing with him and on one occasion, "falling down against his ears and it was all right. He was fine."
Weirton K-9 Officer Jeff Miller said all police dogs are different, adding there are organizations that help to place retired police dogs in homes if the dog's temperament is suited for it.
Miller said he hopes his own police dog, a German shepherd named Timmy, will live with him, following retirement, as he does now.
He noted police dogs are special animals because they are trained to protect the officers to whom they are assigned and will bite if a certain command is given. But Miller said Timmy, who is about 4 years old, gets along well with his young children.
"A dog is one of the few creatures that will put others' safety before its own," he said.
Miller told the children police dogs are special in other ways.
He said their extremely keen sense of smell allows them to help police find criminals who are hiding, missing children and other people and drugs. Miller noted the dogs can detect drugs hidden inside a vehicle while circling it outside.
"He (Timmy) can smell them before we see them," he said.
Timmy demonstrated that skill by finding a Ziploc plastic bag containing dog toys with the scent of drugs that Miller had hidden behind two large garbage cans.
Miller added Timmy also has keen hearing and can run faster than most people.
The children laughed and applauded as Miller played fetch with Timmy using a rubber stick.
Miller said he uses German words to command Timmy because, like many police dogs, Timmy was trained in Germany. He said the training took about three months, while he also received training, over about eight weeks, in handling him.
Both cost the City of Weirton about $9,000, Miller said.
He said the Weirton Police Department employs five K-9 units, including one that is trained to detect explosives. Miller said specific dogs often are trained to detect explosives because those involved in drug detection often scratch, which of course, shouldn't be done when dealing with explosives.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)