Police force K-9 units jumps to four

Jan. 08, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Bark hello to two of the newest members of the Sevierville police force: Lobo, 2, and Buck, 4. Both German shepherds, Lobo and Buck have been trained in apprehending suspects and sniffing out drugs.

Buck joined the department in February 2012 and works regular patrols with his officer, Brandon Perry. Lobo came on board last September and is still being trained by his officer, Preston Parrish. There are two other dogs on the force, including one skilled in detecting bombs.

"Your dog's your partner, and he'll do anything for you," said Parrish.

Lobo and Buck have been instructed in tasks such as searching buildings. They also receive intense obedience training, because they must obey their officers' instructions even in crisis situations.

"If you don't have obedience in a dog, you don't have a whole lot of nothing," said David Finchum, a Sevierville police lieutenant who previously worked full-time with the K-9 unit, and who now helps train dogs.

Police dogs are not trained to be aggressive, Finchum said. "That's old-school," he said. "We don't have dogs that want to get out of here and eat you up. We try to teach them what to do."

Lobo was born in the Netherlands, Buck in Germany. Both dogs boast extensive pedigrees. Police dogs begin their training once they are older than about 15 months, Finchum noted. "You want to get the pup out of them."

Buck and Lobo live with the officers and their families. "Sometimes the family bonds with the dog more than the handler does," said Perry.

Police dogs can seem intimidating, but Lobo is "a normal puppy when he's at home," noted Parrish.

Asked to recall a time when Buck rendered extraordinary service, Perry responded matter-of-factly, "It's every day with him." He added, "It's like having a kid. You're going to brag about him."

The Sevierville Police Department has used dogs since the mid-1970s. Police Chief Don Myers spoke of the program with pride. "Our K-9 program would stand up next to anybody's in this state," he said. Police dogs are chosen for their personality and temperament and cost between $9,000 and $14,000 each, Myers noted.

Working with police dogs is demanding but rewarding. "You've got to love it," said Perry. "When you clock out, your partner goes home with you. Even on my off days, I spend a couple of hours each day maintaining his core training. Our day doesn't stop because we're at home."

kburns@themountainpress.com