BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Police Chief Josh Watson recently introduced two new furry members of his department to the community and the town council.
Watson noted that K-9 officers and their highly trained officer handlers act as teams on the job. After a selection process consisting of physical tests and interviews, Watson chose Officer Ashley Parker and Sgt. Daniel Bova to work with the TPD’s two new K-9s.
The chief thanked both officers for their sacrifice of six weeks away from their families to train with their new partners.
“They showed their dedication to their profession and the department, and I’m very proud to have employees that go above and beyond like that,” Watson said.
The officers and their dogs will be an asset to both the department and the community, Watson said.
Parker, a K-9 patrol officer and coordinator of the TPD K-9 program, was previously a K-9 handler at the Statesville Police Department for more than five years. Her new K-9 partner Scar is an 18-month-old German shepherd.
Parker’s interest in becoming a K-9 officer began after working with her first training officer, a K-9 handler. When a K-9 handler position opened up, she jumped at the chance.
“I like dogs, and it seemed like a fun task and challenging. When I came here and learned we were getting two canines, it seemed like there was no question — I love working with a dog,” said Parker.
She enjoys having Scar’s company on shift and is fully aware of the wonderful “tool” the dogs are. “They add so much to the department as a whole, especially to the squad you are working on and with the capabilities they give you,” the officer said.
If a suspect runs, Scar’s nose gives officers’ an advantage in finding the suspect. “It gives you that added bonus – what more can I do with my job – and he grants me that opportunity.”
Parker describes Scar as “a very chill dog, very docile and calm,” except when she takes his toy. “He’s a very toy-driven dog.”
The dogs alert on methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine and will help in searching buildings to find these dangerous substances. Because marijuana legalization is being considered, the dogs are not imprinted on that substance since they cannot be untrained to alert to marijuana exposure.
In their off time, Parker and Scar play a lot of ball chasing and fetch and take walks, along with her husband and other dogs, including her retired K-9.
Parker and Bova completed a six-week handler’s training course at Ventosa Kennel in Scotland County in early December. The dogs, which were purchased from the kennel, had only basic obedience skills prior to the training course.
The course covers enhanced obedience, tracking, apprehension, building and article search, officer protection, and locating narcotics. The K-9 teams’ training will continue with one or two 10-hour sessions per month to further their situational awareness in many scenarios they may encounter on the job.
Parker wants to work on building the dogs’ confidence, building the dogs’ abilities outside the basics.
“We want to give them every opportunity to succeed on the road,” she said.
A first-time K-9 handler, Sgt. Bova is bonding with his new partner Luka, an 18 month-old German shepherd/ Belgian Malinois mix.
Bova decided to further challenge himself with the added responsibility of being a K-9 handler after seven years with the TPD.
He describes Luka as a “70-pound toddler. He’s super calm and chill.” Luka really likes balls and toys, even enjoying removing ornaments off the Christmas tree at Bova’s home.
Luka loves people, although he still gets a little nervous with crowds, added Bova. Two of Luka’s new friends, Bova’s wife and 15-month-old daughter, are acclimating to each other. Bova, his daughter and Luka go on walks several times a day.
Bova said the K-9s will further improve networking among area law enforcement agencies and expand the department’s capabilities. He also looks forward to Luka’s company on shift in the middle of the night.
Both dogs are spending time getting to know the other officers and town staff and sniffing their new surroundings as they settle into their new jobs.
The dogs will also help officers with community outreach. “Any time a dog is involved, people love it. I’ve gotten overwhelming great response with him in the community,” Bova said.
Out of safety concerns, Parker said the dogs will likely not be at large events because they are apprehension dogs that may become stressed in large crowds. However, the dogs may perform their skills in controlled and planned demonstrations.