Thursday, September 28, 2006

Face-to-face with Xar. Last night at the Police Academy, they brought the dog. Xar, a trained, award winning police dog, 82 pounds, born and trained in Czechoslovakia (his trainer, Officer Jason Harvey, uses Czech for commands). Xar is just about 2 years old, still with some puppy characteristics. On a leash, he sat by his officer's feet with his toy, chewing it constantly. His coloring was a dark sable, as Jason Harvey explained, being bred in Europe, this color is more common than in the US. Also, training German Shepherds is a sport there. When Jason first went to the California kennel to select the dog, his team put about 30 dogs through the paces before selecting Xar, for courage, stability, and skill. So when this dog strolled over to me, put his toy on my lap, and "slimed" me, imagine how thrilled I was. He just came over to me, calmly looked at me, and allowed me to pet him for about 2-3 minutes, then returned to his owner. Wow.
Jason told us that Xar is a pack animal, and recognizes Jason as the alpha dog. Xar wouldn't recognize anyone else as alpha, even Jason's wife, as Xar is a 24-hour commitment, living at home in an outside kennel and considered part of the family. But Xar came back to me, looked me in the face for a few seconds, then put his front legs on my lap and kind of climbed up closer (which was fine with me). He stayed there looking at me calmly, until I decided I was a little more alpha than he and just clicked my fingers to command him to get down -- which he did promptly. What a beautiful animal, and very intelligent.
Then we went downstairs to see Xar in action. Here another police officer put on a black trench coat and arm guard for protection (we did see slides of dog bites; Xar is trained to "hold" but if the suspect resists, he will bite to hold his suspect). Here Xar is all attention. He loves his job and works for the reward, the arm guard is his toy. Xar's smelling skills allows him to find hidden suspects (primarily in building searches or out in the field) far more quickly and safely than a human officer; he often finds the suspect before the officer just by smell alone. It was a privilege to meet him.
For more info on Xar and Source of Photo, go to the Gazette Times archives at:  Posted by Picasa

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