A Rewarding BY SIMON GONZALEZ | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLISON POTTER
K-9 units carry out a variety of missions for local law enforcement agencies
K-9 Hanno successfully completes a suspect-search exercise, finding New Hanover County Deputy J. Day in one of six boxes at the county
There are 14 police dogs in New Hanover County — eight with the sheriff ’s
department, four with the Wilmington Police Department, and two with the Carolina
They are German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, a Hanoverian hound, a Labrador
retriever and a springer spaniel. They speak German, Dutch, French, Flemish, Czech.
They are extremely intelligent and expertly trained to carry out a variety of mis-sions
to support local law enforcement agencies, from drug detection to suspect
Their reward for a job well done is simple.
“When a dog is searching a car for narcotics, it’s not that he’s saying, ‘Oh, there’s
marijuana.’ He’s going, ‘Oh, there’s that smell that I know that a ball comes over my
head and I get rewarded,’” says Sgt. J. Stegall, a nine-year veteran of the sheriff ’s office
and handler of K-9 Jango, a German shepherd.
Rewards vary. Balls. Tug toys. But typically not food.
“He loves to eat,” Sgt. D. Pellegrino of the Wilmington PD says of K-9 Maxx, his
German shepherd-Malinois mix. “He’ll take your hand off.”
Maxx’s reward for accomplishing a task is a vigorous game of tug.
The reward system is on full display during a day at the county training facility off
U.S. 74, near the west bank of the Cape Fear River.
One of the exercises simulates a suspect search. There are six boxes dispersed in a big
field. Deputy J. Day is hidden in one of them. Hanno, a large German shepherd, races
back and forth, seeking his quarry. He indicates on one of the boxes, and Day emerges.
G. Gregory, Hanno’s handler, takes out the dog’s toy. Man and animal play tug for a
couple of minutes, and then Hanno yanks it out of the deputy’s hands. He jumps on a
couple of other deputies, showing off his prize.
“Hanno found Deputy Day and he got a reward,” Stegall says. “When he jumped on
people he was saying, ‘Look what I did! Let’s play!’ He was showing off.”
When a police dog takes
down a suspect fleeing
the scene of a crime, he
isn’t making a value judg-ment.
The canine doesn’t
care about guilt or inno-cence,
wrong or right.
He’s oblivious to gender,
race, color or creed. If he
sinks his formidable teeth
into an arm or leg, he
isn’t being mean.