The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 30, 2013

Sheriff’s office adds two to force

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 — Deputy Sheriffs Wayne Poplin and Tristan Furr have been helping break in some new partners as they patrol the roads of Stanly County.

The training for the new ones is unique.

Often times, objects are tossed at the new ones who then capture them with their teeth.

And, they have the ability of eating up to a gallon of food per day.

But, they also have four legs and can understand Dutch.

These are the new K-9 cops working with the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office.

They went through training with their new partners last month and are now on full alert when called. They join two others giving Stanly County a 24-hour a day K-9 patrol presence.

The two new dogs cost $19,000 including training.

Sheriff Rick Burris said getting the newest pair was a bargain coming from a company in Statesville. Albemarle Police Depart-ment has also purchased one.

“They normally run $14,000 a piece,” Burris said.

“These were paid for by drug seizure money. There was no expense to the taxpayers.”

The training is intense, involving four to five weeks of the dog and trainer.

“The dog handler has a unique responsibility be-cause he’s with that dog 24 hours a day. It’s part of his family,” Burris said.

“It’s not just coming to work and having a dog. When he’s off work, he still has to feed and take care of the dog. There’s a lot of responsibility and work behind the scenes.”

The sherriff said it takes a special talent for an officer to partner with a K-9.

“There is that special talent and everyone will not take the time,” Burris said.

“You have to make sure that if you have a dog handler, he wants to be a committed dog handler because if they aren’t, that’s a waste of money because the dog will not perform right.”

Burris found two such people on his staff when Poplin and Furr stepped up and requested the assignment.

“This is what I have wanted since I was little. It’s what I’ve dreamed of,” Furr said.

“And, it’s exactly what I thought it would be. I love every minute of it.”

Furr said the dog makes the job fun and is an automatic backup to any situation.

“He’s got your back no matter what,” Furr said.

“There’s never a boring moment,” Poplin added.

“When you don’t have your dog with you, it’s just not the same. You miss him.”

Naming the K-9s is done by their human partners and both Poplin and Furr had reasons to pick the names they choose.

The dogs had different names before the officers fbegan pairing with them, but they were able to personalize the names so to speak.

“My dog’s name was Matt, but my sergeant’s name is Matt, so we knew that wasn’t going to work,” Poplin said.

“So, I wanted to change it to the Biblical name ‘Jabez’ because of what it meant and to be able to hold up to that name that said he was more honorable than all his brothers.”

Furr’s dog was named Astor at first, he changed it to Kane but for simpler reasons.

“I just personally didn’t like Astor,” Furr said.

“I saw the name Kane somewhere and just liked it.”

Poplin said he wanted to have a K-9 because he felt like it would bring a new challenge to his career.

“It’s coming out real good,” Poplin said.

Furr said he has had a few vehicle drug searches so far with his dog and Poplin said his tracked an armed robber in Cabarrus County.

“It was a five-hour track and he took us right to the man on his front porch,” Poplin said.

“He’s also made some hits on vehicle drug searches.”

Neither has had any “bite work” yet, but Poplin said “down the line that’s going to happen.”

Both deputies say while on patrol they spot things they see as out of the ordinary and that’s when they and the dogs check things out.

But if someone causes trouble with the deputies, the dogs know what to do.

“They are trained to protect you,” Poplin said.

“If someone is attacking us, they’ll come out of the car.”

He added they are not brought out to intimidate people.

“That factor mainly comes into play if someone is barricaded in a building,” Furr said.

“We have to announce three times a K-9 is entering the building. If they don’t come out, they’re going to get bit.”

Burris, Furr and Poplin acknowledge having the K-9s are a tool which can end up saving an officer’s life, but that doesn’t mean to desensitize the relationship an officer develops with his dog.

“That bond is unbreakable,” Poplin said.

“I’ve had dogs, but I’ve never been attached to one like this. You take care of them like it was your own kid. That’s the way I look at it.”

He laughed talking about how he had already raised his children and now there is a new one.

“He’ll try you and you have to make him listen, but then there’s that joyful time when you get him and he knows it’s time to go play and you have a wonderful time,” Poplin said.

“If anything happened to that dog, I’d be crushed,” Furr said.

“I never knew I could be so attached. I knew it would be a bond, but the bond that a handler and the K-9 develop is an awesome bond. If you don’t have that bond, the dog isn’t going to work with you.”

Poplin said the good thing is no one else can control the dog except the handler.

“Furr and I are such good friends, we could do some things with each other’s dogs, but there probably are some aspects where his dog wouldn’t respond to me,” Poplin said.

Playtime with the K-9s serves as a part of continuous  training.

“A simple game of fetch is 10 minutes of obedience training,” Furr said.

Burris said the dogs are an asset not only to the county but also to other law enforcement agencies who can use the units in special circumstances.

However, he says the biggest asset to having the K-9 unit is officer safety.

“The time may come, and I hope it doesn’t, we may lose a K-9. But in losing a K-9 we may have saved somebody’s life,” Burris said.

“I don’t take it as a chore or a burden,” Poplin said.

“I take it as an excitement and joy to go to work and take my K-9 and go out and do my job.”