Canine unit has class in Taneytown Drug, bomb techniques shown

March 28, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

"Ryn, sit. Behave yourself," said Sgt. Steve L. Shatzer, looking at the constantly moving German shepherd at his feet. "You're in school."

School was definitely in session as Sergeant Shatzer lectured to the fifth-grade students of Taneytown Elementary School Annex attending a monthly meeting for the "Just Say No" drug education program Friday.

Sergeant Shatzer, a Westminster City Police officer, brought two dogs -- one trained to find drugs, the other to find explosives -- to Northwest Middle School's cafeteria to show the students a little about how the animals work in law enforcement.

"The majority of people are not afraid of the police," Sergeant Shatzer told his audience. "Police officers are just regular human beings in uniforms."

He said the presence of police dogs often makes criminals surrender or think twice about continuing whatever violation they were committing.

"But if you bring out a police dog and he starts snarling, people leave," he said.

Sergeant Shatzer explained the techniques that the Police Department uses to train the dogs. He said police seek out dogs "who like to play, especially fetch."

The dogs are taught to fetch what becomes their favorite toy. Once they have mastered that, they are shown -- through repetition -- that when they find whatever the officer wants them to recover, they are rewarded.

"By doing sheer repetition 30 times a day, and 30 times the next day, and so on, he gets it into his little brain that if he gets as close to the narcotic [or explosive] as he can and sits, he gets his toy," the officer said.

Although the training is similar for both types of dogs, there were obvious differences in their "alerting" techniques.

Blanca, the long-haired German shepherd trained to find explosives, bounced from side to side until she was allowed to examine the six girls holding their purses in front of them.

The dog, moving between the girls' legs, seemed to be having more fun making them giggle.

But then Blanca got to where 10-year-old Tammy Potter was standing, the dog thoroughly sniffed the purse and sat down.

Blanca looked at the officer and back at the bag. She had found what

she was after: a roll of cord used to train explosives dogs.

Ryn, who was trained to be aggressive in his search for controlled dangerous substances, showed his spirit as he found HTC his training aid -- scented with marijuana -- in Karen McCartney's handbag.

Once the dog "alerted" -- signaled the presence of drug -- he pushed the bag around on the floor with his nose and grabbed it with his mouth.

"I thought he was going to tear apart the bag or something," said Karen, who along with the five other volunteers had placed their purses on the floor for the demonstration.

"I liked how the dog sniffed out the drugs right away," said Angie Hahn, 11. She said she wasn't afraid though because she is used to dogs.

Linda Kulp, the fifth-grade health teacher at Taneytown Elementary Annex and adviser for the program, said the event was an "interesting and fun" way to educate children about drugs.

Bridget Zerner, 11, of Silver Run agreed. "It was fun," she said. "I liked to see it in person rather than just hear about it."

Ryn made Todd Ellison, 11, miss his own dog, Rex.

"I liked it [the program] a lot," Todd said. "But it made me kind of homesick. I have a dog at home that looks like him."

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