They may have looked like they were playing, but the dogs of the Wheeling Police Department K-9 Unit, Dux and Hyco, were demonstrating to Wheeling Park Day Camp on Thursday the very real and important work that they do.
The demonstration was part of the police department's community outreach program headed by Sgt. John Shultz, prevention resource officer, that teaches children about safety and acquaints them with the local police force.
"The dogs are always a big hit," Cpl. Rick Roxby, handler of Dux, said. "The kids never remember our names, but they remember the dogs' names."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Wheeling police Patrolman Brian Hails and police dog Hyco demonstrate to Wheeling Park Day Camp participants how the K-9 unit is trained to attack when commanded by gripping onto a protective sleeve worn by Cpl. Rick Roxby.
The K-9 unit's main objective was to show the children what police canines are capable of doing on the job. Dux and Hyco demonstrated how they sniff out drugs by finding hidden marijuana in one of four identical orange cones. Roxby and Patrolman Brian Hails also demonstrated the way the dogs are trained to attack criminals if the situation calls for it by letting the dogs "attack" protective arm sleeves the officers wore.
Roxby said the dogs are trained by playing games and using toys, and later they apply those skills to real-life situations. He also mentioned that most of the dogs' commands are in German, except for the phrase "Find the dope," which the officers use with the dogs in a drug search.
"It's all a big game for the dogs," Roxby said. "Each dog has their own toy. They're having fun, they're playing. To get that toy at the end of the day, the dogs are saying, 'I did good.'"
The police dogs are also pets and go home with the officer who handles them after a day of work.
"We are so grateful for the officers and for the outreach program," Chante Mitchell, director of Wheeling Park Day Camp, said. "The outreach programs are something exciting we're starting this year, teaching the kids about safety."
Shultz said the presentation was one of many the police department has done this summer as part of the community outreach program. He said he has been visiting and teaching campers around the local area about water safety, Internet safety and self-protection against bullying.
"This is a fun program for us to do," Shultz said. "It's important to keep the kids involved. You hear a lot of negatives about the police, but people don't hear the positive. We're thankful that the K-9 unit is here and that they're here for the kids. A lot of people don't know that we do this kind of thing."