Two of the three canine units from the Huron County Sheriff’s Office visited the Monroeville school early Friday afternoon. Noro, who is 8 1/2 years old, and 7-year-old Justice showed off their tracking skills, speed and power during the demonstration in the playground.
“These dogs are very valuable to Huron County. These dogs are very active in finding drugs in Huron County,” said Bob McDowell, who is Noro’s handler and has been training police dogs for nearly 40 years. “This is my ninth police dog.”
The sheriff’s office has a third K-9, Joe-Joe, whose handler is Deputy Josh Young. About a month ago, the dog tore a muscle in his leg, but has had surgery and recently returned to “light duty” of helping deputies find drugs.
Justice and Noro discovered narcotics hidden in a vehicle during the demonstration Friday. McDowell and corrections officer Mike Lloyd, whose partner is Justice, ran their dogs around a sport utility vehicle until they showed their handlers that a bag of dope was nearby.
“They will sit when they smell the odor of the drugs,” McDowell told the students beforehand.
Sure enough, the two German Shepherds alerted to the drugs being hidden in the headlight compartment.
“It’s really cool. I did not know they could smell like that,” said seventh-grade student Jaxson Hedrick.
Sophia Stieber, who is in the fourth grade, also was impressed with the dogs’ sensitive noses.
“I thought that was really cool,” she said. “It was really cool how they can tell how to find it by the smell.”
Lloyd said suspects will try to hide drugs in vehicles, strollers and even diapers.
“The dog will pick it out,” the corrections officer added. “They don’t have to be right on it.”
Before the dogs are authorized to go on patrol with their handlers, they undergo 18 months to two years of training in Germany.
McDowell, whose brother David is the St. Joseph principal, said the dogs are trained to do everything from find drugs to search buildings and look for missing children and adults.
Tom Smith, of Norwalk, wore a highly padded bite sleeve for Justice to “take a bite” once Lloyd let him off his leash. Smith’s wife Jeralyn teaches first grade at St. Joseph.
“He almost knocked him over. It was cool how hard he went,” Hedrick said.
The Monroeville boy said he thought the most interesting he learned was that police dogs have been in situations where they have had to bite someone.
McDowell stressed to the students that the dogs’ main objective is helping with arrests.
“They’re not attack dogs; they apprehend people. They don’t attack people,” he said, noting that the sheriff’s office dogs can bite with 500 to 600 pounds of pressure per square inch.
A teacher asked McDowell about a police dog’s ability to find someone in a crowd. The longtime trainer said the animals will run through a group of people “once they have a target ID.”
McDowell said there was an Erie County situation when Noro bit someone after being kicked by a male suspect. The man later required 18 stitches in his thigh.
“Your dog is a beast. He tore me up,” McDowell said, recalling what the man told him in the hospital. “I told him, ‘You shouldn’t have fought with my dog.’”