K9 officers assist humans in a variety of ways. Some of the many ways in which these dogs serve are on police forces, search and rescue missions, they sometimes search for cadavers, explosives, drugs, and missing people. Some are Secret Service Dogs who protect the President of the United States (and family).
The two Belgian Malinois dogs above are real life Secret Service Dogs named Hurricane (left) and Jardan* (right). Jardan is pronounced jar-DAN. These two dogs are being honored in these photos for taking down a White House fence jumper in October 2014. Their story is featured in Secret Service Dogs: the Heroes Who Protect the President of the United States by Maria Goodavage. If you are a dog person, this book is for you!
*Jardan’s name was misspelled in the media as “Jordan.” Once the mistake was made, it was repeated by other reporters both in the press and on television. Jardan was not offended. He’s not in this line of work for the glory.
The fence jumper was charged with multiple counts of felony assault on a police officer. Both Hurricane and Jardan suffered injuries in the line of duty which required medical attention and some rehab time. Both K9 officers were eventually cleared for active duty and currently still protect the President.
Hurricane and Jardan were given the Award for Valor at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Awards in 2015. No other dogs have ever been honored in this manner.
Dogs are one level of security provided by the Secret Service. Anyone with ill intentions at the White House would have to make it through several layers of K9 security before getting anywhere near the President and/or the First Family. All Secret Service dogs fall in to three broad categories:
Emergency Response Team (ERT) dogs – These dogs are the canine equivalent of a SWAT team. The ERT dogs are highly trained to protect world leaders and are trained in advanced SWAT tactics. Hurricane and Jardan are ERT dogs.
Explosive Detection Team (EDT) dogs – These dogs are stationed at White House entrances and also perform vehicle checks. EDT dogs are able to sniff out all known explosives and may work all over the world preceding the President’s and other important persons arrivals/departures.
Personnel Screening Canines (PSCs) – These dogs check all persons in or in the vicinity of the White House (and all are also EDT dogs).
This group has a subcategory called:
Personnel Screening Canines Open Area (PSCO) aka Friendly Dogs aka Floppy-Eared Dogs – Since all of that is a mouthful to say, most handlers just call them Friendly Dogs.
These dogs take walks for a living and work outside of the fence. Friendly Dogs can track even the vapor of explosives as they are moving. The other EDT dogs that work in and around the White House only do their jobs if a visitor (or an explosive device) has stopped. The floppy eared cuteness of Friendly Dogs is intentional. They must work in close proximity to people and can’t do their jobs if they look scary and cause people to move away from them. Make no mistake though, these are highly trained police officers.
There are all sorts of dogs in the Secret Service.
Some of the dogs are obvious police dogs, others are so covert you probably wouldn’t know they had anything to do with the Secret Service. Dogs assist with crowd control and they are everywhere. There are also crowd control dogs that work in and around the White House. Some of these dogs are so secret you would never see them. They are hidden behind screens and various other strategic places. Fans blow in the dogs’ directions so they can quickly assess groups. If you have ever been to the White House, you were sniffed whether you knew it or not. There are perimeter dogs who either patrol on foot or work from vans in strategic locations. There are dogs who respond to alarms and other perimeter alerts. There are dogs who protect the Vice President and family, visiting dignitaries and many others. There are dogs with the President where ever he goes domestically or abroad. There are dogs who check transport vehicles such as cars, planes, and helicopters. The dogs work 24/7 year round no matter the weather or circumstances. All of these are just the dogs the Secret Service will tell us about. There are many other levels of dogs that are so secret that they are not acknowledged publicly.
Like people, these K9’s have to continually update their skills. The dogs may go back to school for refresher classes or to learn new skills at various times. Also like people, K9’s need some recreational time and enjoy participating in the K9 Olympics. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many Secret Service dogs participate in the K9 Olympics in Indiana less than a half hour away from where I live! I have seen the outside of the facility and never realized what it was exactly. Dogs from all over the world are sent to this facility to train and participate in K9 games. The Secret Service dogs compete against other teams such as Police or Military Working Dogs (MWDs). In recent years the Secret Service dogs have dominated these K9 Olympics.
I was aware that Vohne Liche (pronounced Von Lick) Kennels trained police dogs, but I had no idea that they also provide and train Military Working Dogs, Secret Service Dogs and many other dogs for various government agencies. I had to take a field trip to visit the facility (a few times) when I found this out! On my first visit, the facility was just closing but I was told I could take some outside pictures. Here are just a few:
This stone is one of the first things visitors see upon arrival at VLK.
This is a bit hard to see, but I was trying to get the whole obstacle course in the picture.
This picture shows some more of the compound which is spread across 600 acres. I have also learned that there are two other Vohne Liche facilities located in Banning, CA and Yuma, AZ.
On my second visit to VLK, I was granted a brief interview with the owner and founder, Kenneth D Licklider.
Kenneth told me that not only are there 3 facilities in the US, but Vohne Liche owns and operates several similar kennels in several other countries. They literally train dogs all over the world. Due to the secret nature of some of the work occurring at VLK, I asked Kenneth to just tell me what he wanted me to know. Kenneth is a military vet. He learned how to be a trainer/handler while in the Air Force. The skills learned in the Air Force transferred nicely to the civilian world where Kenneth began to train police K9s. Kenneth went on to talk about the origin of the company and how they have grown (which you can read about by following the VLK link below) into handling/training dogs for several government agencies. Although I haven’t read it yet, Kenneth strongly suggested that I read the book From Baghdad With Love by Jay Kopelman.
After this, I was asked if I would come back at another time to take my pictures since he had to go to a K9 graduation! I’m guessing that it was a police K9 that was graduating since the parking lot was full of police vehicles and then this morning a new picture appeared on the VLK website:
Another generous contribution made by Dr. & Mrs. Caesar DePaço of Summit Nutritionals International
Congratulations to Peru PD, IN on their new K9 Fargo.
I tied to schedule a third visit to VLK for a few more pictures before this post was published, but we couldn’t seem to find a mutually agreeable time. I’m not sure whether or not it’s still a possibility at this point, but I feel very fortunate to have been able to get an interview with the owner.
You can also read a little about Military Working Dogs in my post Public Administration & Military Science which features another Maria Goodavage book, Soldier Dogs.
In addition to Police K9’s, Secret Service K9’s, and Military Working Dogs, there are other dogs that work as detectives. The next book The Lost Pet Chronicles:Adventures of a K-9 Cop Turned Pet Detective by Kat Albrecht with Jana Murphy is an interesting story.
Kat Albrecht began her law enforcement career as a police dispatcher. Later, she went through the police academy and became a uniformed police officer. Her ultimate goal, however, was to gain respect as a dog trainer/handler. Kat was underappreciated in her first police force job. She didn’t want to work with the usual K9’s that were usually multipurpose dogs. Kat wanted to work with trailing dogs; specifically Bloodhounds and Weimaraners. The police force where Kat first worked in the late 70’s/early 80’s only wanted to use German Shepards or Malinois. At the time, most police forces did not recognize the value of utilizing other breeds. Undaunted Kat trained her Weimaramer, Rachel, to be a cadaver dog–a brand new concept in the world of law enforcement at that time. Kat also trained her Bloodhound, A.J., to be a scent detection dog. Eventually Kat changed jobs and this time found herself on a police force where she was both respected and taken seriously about her desire to use trailing dogs. After awhile, both Rachel and A.J. proved their value in solving cases, finding hiding suspects, and finding evidence of all kinds. Though skeptical at first, Kat’s fellow officers found a new respect for trailing dogs.
Unfortunately some time later an injury forced Kat to retire from her beloved police force, but she wasn’t ready to quit working. Prior to her injury, Kat identified a need for a service to find lost pets. Pet owners often treat their pets as family and a missing pet often feels like a missing family member. Kat had done some preliminary lost pet searches on her own time while she was still a police officer. After her injury, Kat took on a new challenge of using her dog to track lost pets. Rachel, in particular, did indeed turn out to be a multipurpose dog. Rachel had retired from the police force several years before Kat did. However, Rachel came out of retirement to become a pet detective. Not only did Rachel retain all of her police skills, but she learned to track down specific cats and dogs.(Rachel also tracked an iguana and a ferret!) It was later learned that not all dogs could track both cats and dogs. Some dogs could only track cats, other dogs only tracked dogs. Rachel was even more valuable than she had first appeared. Because Rachel’s nose was almost 100% accurate, she could track almost anything asked of her.
Since preliminary pet detective work with Rachel was so successful, Kat went on to found the nonprofit group Missing Pet Partnership as well as train many other dogs to do this type of work. Kat has also been successful at profiling missing pet behaviors. Currently there are 30 states that have this service (sadly Indiana is not one of them) and 4 locations in Canada.
Do you know any working dogs? Did you know about the Secret Service dogs? Have you ever heard of pet detectives?