and retrieve a ball, is important because it’s often the main reward for successful training or tracking. It’s common for an officer to pull into a park during a shift, let the dog out and play a quick game of fetch during a slow stretch. Then, it’s back to work. The national mandate for police K9 training is 16 hours a month. Wyoming dogs and their handlers exceed that standard. Rain or shine (or sleet, adds Aungst), they train weekly for about seven hours at a time. Even officers who work the night shift are required to show up at training once they get off patrol the next morning. It’s an enormous commitment, but a necessary one when lives are on the line. All K9 dogs live with their handlers. “There is this expectation to perform,” Toonstra said. “You show up with these dogs, and everybody wants you to find somebody or wants you to find dope. They want that dog to
perform.” Training continues until the day a dog retires, which typically happens around the time they’re 8. Arras now is 8, which makes him the next likely candidate for retirement. According to Robinson, Arras is still going strong, and he hopes to get another year or year and a half out of him. Then, he’ll retire him and give him a “normal” dog’s life. “God willing, I’d rather him go out on top than go out not being able to jump in the car anymore because his hips hurt him,” Robinson said. “I’d like to have him make the transition from ‘copping’ to just being a dog at home and letting him live his life out without any expectations – other than chasing that tennis ball.” And when the day comes for Arras to step down, his service will be well recognized. “Oh, he’s going to have a party,” Robinson said, laughing. “Dad is going
to have a party for him.”
Officer Eric Toonstra gives K9 Dutch a 5 a.m. bath after Dutch tracked a suspect through a trash-filled alleyway.
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