GLADSTONE — Residents gathered at the Gladstone Beach House recently for a live K9 demonstration by D&D K9 Dynamics, a Gladstone-based police K9 training program and facility, as part of a fundraiser event for Gladstone Public Safety’s K9 Unit. Teaming up with the Dewdrop Family Restaurant, D&D spent roughly an hour showing off the skills that their K9s have acquired through meticulous coaching, along with expressing the importance of K9 Units when it comes to keeping cities safe.
“We do this because we love being a part of the community and we love giving back,” Amanda Phillips, owner of the Dewdrop Family Restaurant, said. “We are hoping to rebuild the K9 Unit and provide another dog for the safety of our citizens and for the City of Gladstone.”
The fundraiser event comes in light of the retirement of K9 officer Kam, a male Dutch shepherd who joined Gladstone Public Safety in late 2019. As the first K9 officer at Gladstone Public Safety, Kam’s work focused primarily on drug searches and seizures, along with rescues . After suffering a life-changing injury, a blown ACL, Kam could no longer do his job with the level of proficiency it requires. Officer Ryan Peterson, Kam’s handler, retired alongside his dog from him.
“I have had the opportunity to see Ryan and Kam working … when the dog is working it is a pretty incredible experience,” Gladstone Public Safety Officer Dylan Enright said. “Rarely do you see something so motivated and eager to do it’s job and do it right. It’s a special experience and not many things can compare to it.”
The event began with a meet and greet between the D&D team, their K9s — Nuke and Bico — and all of those in attendance. This portion of the event was meant to familiarize the public with the friendly, social, and tranquil nature of the K9s. Dave Johnson, president of D&D K9 Dynamics, hoped to show that K9s are more than just attack dogs.
“What people will see is just how friendly this dog is. [Nuke] will work the crowd, kids will be loving up on him, and he is going to eat it up,” Johnson said. “If I were to get hurt or if somebody tried to hurt me, of course the dog is going to do its job.”
Not only is D&D K9 Dynamics the first police K9 training program and facility in the Upper Peninsula, but they are the only place that can train K9s and their handlers in the area. Johnson has a long and accomplished career as a K9 handler, working with K9 Orax at the Hannahville Police Department before transferring to the Escanaba Public Safety Department in 2001. While in Escanaba, Johnson was partnered with K9 Dag before retiring in 2014.
“My biggest job with the K9 is to have that K9 handler and that dog become a perfect team together,” Johnson said. “When the dog understands what it is supposed to do, what the handler wants from the dog, that is when you know you have a beautiful team together.”
Johnson primarily trains narcotics and explosives dogs, meaning that the K9s can assess bomb threats, detect explosives, and sniff out heroin, meth, and cocaine. The K9s are also trained to do article searching, tracking down suspects based on lost articles of clothing or other pieces of physical evidence. While it may seem that the K9s are only used to track down “bad guys,” these dogs are can also assist in other emergency scenarios.
“Whether you have a person who maybe walked away with dementia or somebody who has autism, these dogs can track and find those people as well,” Johnson said.
On display at the event, however, was apprehension work. According to Johnson, this is just a fancy way to say bite work.
The K9 demonstration began with a D&D trainer, posing as a perpetrator, running away from Johnson and Nuke. On command, Johnson sent Nuke after the perpetrator, who was wearing a bite suit to protect herself from the dog’s teeth. While Nuke was latched to the perpetrator, Johnson explained the specific commands he gives the dog during confrontational moments in the field. While the commands were spoken in Dutch, an overly simplified explanation for the commands would be along the lines of “go,” “stay,” and “lay down.”
“There are certain words that we use, and we don’t do it on purpose,” Johnson said. “My dogs come form Holland, so it makes more sense to keep them Dutch because that is what they were originally taught.”
Johnson also demonstrated how Nuke can differentiate between an average citizen and a suspect, along with showing how the dog will stand at attention while police pat a suspect down. At the conclusion of the demonstration, Johnson urged those in the audience to approach the dog. Nuke disappeared as families surrounded the dog, petting and congratulating him on a job well done.
“If anyone ever questions if I have had a bad bite or not, there is your answer,” Johnson said during his presentation. “I just had [Nuke] do the nastiest, gnarliest bite work and now he is surrounded by kids.”
Fundraising efforts by the Dewdrop took place during the event, with 50/50 tickets being sold along with an ongoing basket raffle. 55 baskets were donated by businesses and crafters in the Delta County area for the cause. The Dewdrop also donated 20% of its sales on Friday, July 29, for the cause.
“This is the third time in four years that we have done this with the Dewdrop,” Enright said. “We have a pretty unique situation in Gladstone. We have a completely fundraise-based K9 program… so events like this are pretty important to our program.”