Thor gives us a loud bark. He’s excited, and ready to go to work. Thor is a four-and-a-half-year-old German Shepard which is one of seven dogs in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Goldner has been teamed with Thor for more than two years.
“Our normal patrol shifts are 12 hours, so our dogs work 12 hours with us,” said Goldner. “We’re on call 24/7.”
He said when they are at home, Thor behaves like any pet dog, and is very friendly. But, he said when the dog sees him put on his uniform, and they get into their patrol SUV, he takes on a different demeanor as a law enforcement K9.
We caught up with two K9 teams as they were visiting the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, educating people about how they work. Deputy Chad Jones is teamed up with Onyx, a-year-and-a-half-old Dutch Shepard.
“The dog is a great deterrent. No one wants to get bit by a dog. Most people have the realization that a dog is a lot faster than them, and more agile,” said Jones.
He said the result is usually someone will surrender without further incident.
Jones said a little known fact about the dogs is that depending on where they come from, how they are brought up, and who their foster family is, the dogs understand different languages.
“We have a dog that’s trained in Dutch, a couple that are in German. and mine is in English,” he said.
While we think of the K9’s in terms of helping to catch bad guys, they can also help with different kinds of searches. Earlier this month, one of the K-9’s helped find a missing hiker in the Los Padres National Forest. It led searchers to within a hundred feet of where the hiker was found.
One of the little know facts about how the units, is how they are funded. Most people assume they are paid for with tax dollars. Some do get department funding, but many, like Ventura County’s unit, have to raise the money themselves. The units aren’t cheap.
“A new dog cost anywhere from $15-20,000, you throw in training, a bulletproof vest which is $2-3000, and then there’s vet bills,” said Jones.
He said even some fellow deputies are stunned when they discover the K9’s aren’t funded by the law enforcement agency.
Jones said they are holding one of their biggest annual fundraising events this month, a golf tournament, on August 28. The Ventura County Sheriff’s K9 Foundation Golf Classic will be at the Moorpark Country Club. The K9 program will benefit from the event’s entry fees and sponsorships.
Besides the money issue, there’s also a lot of extra work involved. The teams have to be dedicated. Besides their patrol work, they spend about 40 hours a month doing training.
Here’s one more interesting thing about the K9’s. People want to pet them but Jones said always ask first. Some dogs are friendly, but others are very protective of their handlers, and may see a move toward them as aggressiveness.