Const. Marc Jones (left)

Const. Marc Jones (left)

Spend a day with the police dogs

RCMP offers a day to watch the police dogs in training as a silent auction item for the Vernon SPCA fundraiser, Pints for Paws

At four months old, Jana is a fluffy exuberant puppy eager to give licks and accept scratches behind the ear.

But the German shepherd is also training to be a valuable member of the RCMP.

And for just one day, members of the public have the chance to spend a training day with the RCMP dog squad, which includes Const. Marc Jones and his dog, Farook.

It’s all part of Pints for Paws, a fundraiser for the SPCA taking place Saturday at The Green. A day with the dog squad is one of the big items up for bid in the silent auction.

“Come out with us for a training day and watch what the dogs do and what we do, it’s a chance for people to have an enjoyable day out,” said Jones. “We love the SPCA so we’re happy to help.”

Jones’ current dog is three-year-old Farook, but he and his family also share their home with Traxx, his recently retired police dog.

“We try to use the dogs as much as we can; a lot of times we will use them in situations just for their presence,” he said. “If we have someone getting confrontational, the dogs are a great presence.”

Jones has been handling police dogs for seven years and said it’s one of the toughest RCMP duties around, but it’s one that he finds extremely rewarding.

“You have to put in a lot of time, but I just love the dogs,” he said. “We always catch the bad guy with the dog, but the best thing is finding the missing person. And the dogs do all this just for the love and the positive reinforcement.

“We look at each dog individually, and by one year old, we know if it has the potential to be a working dog.”

Pup Jana lives with Const. Steph Bowhey, who is making sure the dog gets the socialization she needs through the RCMP’s Imprinting Program, which places puppies with officers interested in becoming a dog handler. Officers such as Bowhey are responsible for the development of these dogs, by making sure they are socialized and familiarized with a wide variety of environments and situations.

Jana is still being evaluated as there is no guarantee that every dog will make the cut — a dog entering the RCMP training program has a 17 per cent chance of succeeding due to the high standards required. Dogs that don’t make the cut are offered for sale as pets to the general public.

“I want to get into dog handling, and I’ve had dogs (in the program) before,” said Bowhey, who spent four years with the Vernon detachment but now works with RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) out of Kelowna.

“I love dogs, and German shepherds weren’t my favourite dogs before this but now I love them for their loyalty, and they are a very impressive dog.”

The RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre was established at Innisfail, Alta. in 1965. The dog starts its police training when it is from 12 to 18 months old. Basic training is about 17 weeks, but training never really ends as daily practice is required to maintain a high level of physical and mental fitness. In addition to being in perfect physical condition, they must have particular personality traits which make them suitable for police work: even temperament, hunting instinct and sound character are essential (source: rcmp-grc.gc.ca).

Chelsea Taylor, manager of the Vernon SPCA, said Pints for Paws raises funds to care for animals, whether it’s providing medical care, food or anything else the animals at the shelter need.

“And all funds raised in Vernon stay in Vernon,” she said. “We always have lots of animals at the shelter — mostly cats but also rats, rabbits and guinea pigs, and farm animals as well, although we don’t keep them at the shelter.

“When people get a pet we want them to know they are forever members of the family. We try to find the right animals for the right family: just because you want a certain animal it might not be a good fit. We don’t want them to come back — we want them to find their forever family.”

The Pints for Paws fundraiser takes place Saturday at The Green in the Village Green Hotel. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and live entertainment by the Shawn Lightfood Band begins at 9:15 p.m. In addition to the silent auction, with the RCMP dog training day up for bid, the event will include a 50/50 draw and raffles. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Entry is by donation, and all proceeds will benefit the Vernon & District BC SPCA.