Fairfield Police Department ready for UnoHandler David Wall will pick up the 14-month-old German shepard this weekend, and after a handler training course, they’ll be ready to begin their duties in March.
The Fairfield Police Department is excitedly awaiting its youngest ever member, Uno, a 14-month-old German Shepard trained in narcotics detection and officer protection.
Police officer David Wall, who the department selected as Uno’s handler, has seen pictures of his new partner, but will not meet him until Sunday, when he and current handler Lt. Colin Smith travel to Mid-Michigan Kennels in East Lansing, Mich.
Smith handles the current police dog, Bonjour, but said he no longer has time to patrol the streets since his promotion to lieutenant last year. Since Bonjour is nearly 8 years old, the department decided to retire Bonjour before fundraising to train a new handler.
“It’s a better decision to purchase a new dog that the new handler can work with for his entire career, instead of being in the same position in a year and a half,” said Smith.
Smith said he will keep Bonjour, who he has worked with since 2007.
“We worked together six years,” said Smith. “I absolutely loved it.”
Wall will bring Uno home with him Jan. 14, and will have two weeks to bond before they attend a five-week basic handler training at the Michigan kennel. By March, Uno will be ready to begin his duties in Fairfield.
Smith said handler training is just that, designed to train the handler. The dogs, which are born in Europe, already are trained in drug imprinting from the time they are weaned. Trainers hide toys that smell like the four narcotics the dogs are trained to detect, said Smith.
“The dog already knows how to do his job,” said Smith. “The training teaches the new handler how to get the dog to do his job.”
Smith said Uno is unusually young at 14 months, as most dogs are 2 years old when they join a police force. Uno, like Bonjour, is a dual-purpose dog, which not only detects drug, but is trained to protect its handler, meaning he will bite if given a command.
“It takes an extremely smart dog to be able to do all the things a dual purpose dog can do,” said Smith.
Thus far, Smith hasn’t had to use Bonjour’s protection training.
“We’ve been lucky so far,” said Smith. “There have been several times where people acted like they were going to do something, but once they realized the dog was there, they decided they didn’t want to become a chew toy.”
Bonjour has helped in a number of drug busts, sniffing out more than 800 pounds of marijuana in Van Buren County in 2010.
“They’re great tools,” said Smith. “A police officer can’t just walk up to a car and tell you if narcotics are in it; a police dog can tell you right away if drugs are in it or not.”
Wall has been in charge of raising $12,000 to cover the costs of purchasing Uno, as well as for the course and other fees incurred while there. Wall has been visiting local businesses soliciting donations for the police department canine fund since September.
While Smith said handlers work mostly one-on-one with their canine, it has a special place with everyone in the police department.
“Bonjour comes in to the PD when things are slow and everyone loves him up,” he said. “Absolutely he is a member of the PD.”