Central Oregon police dogs show off their skills

Deschutes County law enforcement agencies showcased their police dogs’ skills Saturday during different scenarios and demonstrations at the Central Oregon Police K9 Trials.

The event at the Summit High School baseball field drew a crowd of spectators who watched as police dogs and their handlers took turns apprehending a suspect — a Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office deputy dressed in a padded suit.

The police dogs — members of the sheriff’s office, Bend Police, Redmond Police and Bureau of Land Management — also demonstrated tracking items thrown by a suspect and being called back by their handlers while in pursuit.

After their performances, the police dogs and handlers met with the spectators.

Leo Lotito, a Bend Police officer who has worked with police dogs since 1997, said it had been a few years since local law enforcement agencies gathered together to host the trials.

The event is a good way to teach the public about police dogs and their role in each department, he said.

Eight active police dogs performed Saturday. Most were Belgian Malinois, and one was a Springer Spaniel specifically trained to detect drugs. A retired 13-year-old police dog from the San Francisco Police Department also performed.

“We are showing the community what the importance is of having the dogs and what they do,” Lotito said. “They are not pets. They are service dogs.”

Russ Skelton, a Bend Police detective, came as a spectator to the event with his 9-year-old son, Everett, and 6-year-old daughter, Rosie.

Skelton said his children were excited for the show and had watched online videos the night before of police dog apprehensions.

“I like when they find somebody,” Everett said.

Rosie had another reason why she likes police dogs.

“They look cute,” she said.

Sarah Mikkelson, 17, who graduated this spring from Bend’s Mt. View High School and plans to study criminal justice at Central Oregon Community College, came to the police dog trials with her parents, Greg and Teresa Mikkelson.

Sarah Mikkelson said she is interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, and recently did a ride along with a Bend Police officer and the officer’s police dog. If she becomes an officer, she would like to patrol with a police dog, Mikkelson said.

“I love dogs, especially K9s,” she said.

A crowd favorite was Bend Police dog, Lil’ Kim, the smallest Belgian Malinois but the fastest. The 3-year-old dog was trained in the Netherlands and came to Bend Police last fall.

When it was her turn to chase down the padded suspects, she ran so fast that her body spun around the suspect when she bit down on the padding. The athletic display drew applause from the crowd, with some people shouting, “wow.”

Lil’ Kim’s handler, Officer Kevin Uballez, said she has been on patrol with him for the past eight months. In that time, he has been impressed with her energy and tracking ability.

Uballez enjoyed sharing his police dog’s talents with an audience.

“She’s a handful, that’s for sure,” Uballez said. “Once she gets out there, she’s in the game.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com


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