MONTROSE – The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office has used trained dogs before, but none were nationally certified. The department recently bought two new dogs, Oxx and Ivan, both of whom have been professionally trained and are currently certified.
Their training makes these dogs valuable, but their breeds should also be a benefit to the department said Deputy Mike Reed, who is Ivan’s handler.
Ivan is an 18-month-old Belgian malinois and Oxx is a Dutch shepherd. Both dogs are extremely intelligent and friendly, and have been trained to detect odors from narcotics, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, Reed said. The dogs went through an intensive 35 to 40 day training to get nationally certified, he added.
But Ivan and Oxx are not attack dogs, as demonstrated when Ivan went straight for a visitor’s face, not for a bite, but for a friendly lick.
“He’s a real high energy dog,” Reed said as Ivan, on a leash, romped around his legs. “Give him a minute and he’ll settle down.”
Both dogs live with their handlers, he said, and on weekends when they’re both off, Ivan romps in the Reed’s back yard with his two English bulldogs.
Dogs have moods like people, Reed said, but Ivan is always ready to perform his duty.
“He knows when I’m in uniform and getting in the truck, it’s time to work,” he said.
Belgian malinois and Dutch shepherds both have traits of track-proven German shepherds for police work, Reed said, but have a longer service life because they don’t have some of the hip problems that German shepherds often display as they get older.
The dogs have been used an average of about once a week, Reed said. Most recently, Oxx participated in a search for a lost child who was found Monday evening, and Ivan took part the search for a suspect who robbed Alpine Bank last Friday. They’ve also been used for suspicious traffic stops and by the local drug task force.
Both dogs are high energy, which means they have a “good prey drive,” Reed said. The handlers call it “ball drive,” because at the end of the day, the dogs’ rewards are a tennis ball to play with.
“They would rather play with that than eat,” he said. “That’s all the reward they want.”
But Oxx and Ivan didn’t come cheap. Each cost $6,900, and were paid for by community members who have been making donations for the past year, Reed said. They also got some help from Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, which is donating a year’s supply of food for the dogs, and San Juan Veterinary Clinic, which is giving the department reduced rates for treating the dogs.
Ivan’s only problem is that he’s a little itchy because of the dry weather, Reed said, since he was raised in the humid South. Reed said he’s tried every kind of treatment, including giving Ivan fish oil, and he hopes he gets adjusted to the climate soon.
Ivan’s already adjusted to his role as a canine cop, and seems to enjoy the attention and children waving at him as he rides by in the back of a sheriff’s K-9 truck, which has his name painted on the side.
“He’s quite a ham,” Reed said.