Bane’s handler then was S. Dixon, who has since left the unit.
Master Deputy G. Pedersen, who joined the sheriff ’s department
in 2009 after 22 years with the New York City PD, has been in
charge of Bane since May.
“He’s a celebrity,” Pedersen says. “My joke is that I chauffer a
A celebrity to the public, maybe, but the deputies affectionately
call him the department goofball. Bane belies the stereotype of
a police dog. His job is to find missing children and dementia
patients who wander off. He doesn’t track suspects, so he is not
trained to be aggressive.
“When he is tracking and he finds you, he’s going to lick you,
he’s going to jump in your lap,” Stegall says. “He’s happy. And he
knows food is coming. He has a food reward. The dog loves those
little dollar packets of tuna.”
Bane might never track and apprehend a suspect, but he does
use the same tool as his more aggressive kennel mates.
“Everything they do is because of their nose,” Stegall says.
“Kids always ask about how strong their noses are. This is my
analogy. Someone’s cooking chili, you walk in their home and
smell chili. A dog can walk in and tell you, if they could talk, the
meat, the spices, the beans, the sauce. They could break down
each individual ingredient. That’s how strong their noses are.”
The German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are adept at
tracking suspects through buildings or through the woods —
“That’s the coolest part of the job, when you’re tracking someone
in the woods,” says Cpl. K. Vithalani, a 17-year veteran of the
Wilmington PD and handler of K-9 Sultan.
But Pellegrino says the most common calls are drug sniffs.
When a patrol unit pulls over a vehicle or enters a building and
smells drugs or suspects drugs are involved, the K-9s are called in.
“When we get there, we’ll walk the dog around the car and
see if we get an indication,” Pellegrino says. “They all sit on the
odor of narcotics, so there’s no damage to the vehicles. In the
past, every dog used to be aggressive, where they all scratched.
The trend is everything has become passive to avoid issues with
The department trains the dogs with samples of illegal
drugs obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The dogs don’t know what drug they are indicating on,
they are just indicating on odor,” Pellegrino says. “I like to use
the analogy of popcorn. You pop popcorn in the microwave.
You eat it and it’s gone. But you still smell it because it stinks
up your whole house. That’s what the dog is looking for. He’s
looking for the odor, not the source. If I have marijuana on
my hands and I touch this wall, the dog is going to indicate
here. That’s how we do it.”
A discriminating nose is common to all the dogs, but a
language isn’t. Commands are given in a variety of European
tongues. But it’s not to prevent suspects from countermanding
a handler’s order.
“The common myth is you think we do that so you can’t
speak to my dog,” Stegall says. “That’s not true. It’s because that’s
what they’re taught over there. When they are brought over here to
the United States, their whole world has changed. It’s a lot of stress.
You can see it in his face. So we say, we’ll learn your language.”
The handlers only have to learn a few basic commands in a
“Sit, down, stay, bite, article search. Not a lot,” Pellegrino says.
“We don’t have to become fluent. If that were the case it would
be an issue for us simple-minded people.”
They also don’t have to pronounce the words like a native.
“I promise you we don’t say the words right,” Stegall says. “Our
Southern twang is twisted on there somewhere. But then the dogs
adapt to us.”
They come from countries like Holland, Germany and the
“Everything they do is
because of their nose.
This is my analogy.
chili, you walk in their
home and smell chili. A
dog can walk in and tell
you, if they could talk,
the meat, the spices,
the beans, the sauce.
They could break
down each individual
WBM september 2017