New police dogs show off their skills at K-9 commencement

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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photoVancouver Police Chief Cliff Cook presents Officer Jack Anderson, left, and his new canine partner, Ike, with a plaque to recognize their recent completion of certification training. Ike is now on the streets with Anderson.

(/The Columbian)

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As soon as the police canine handler put on the "bite suit," Ike began howling.

The Belgian Malinois gave Clark County sheriff's Deputy Brian Ellithorpe a death stare as the deputy stood several yards from him, dressed in the protective, padded suit. The dog whined and barked.

Then, Ike's handler, Vancouver police officer Jack Anderson, unleashed the dog and he bounded toward Ellithorpe, sinking his teeth into the deputy's forearm. The audience erupted in applause.

The bite was a simulation of the type of pursuit Ike, one of the Vancouver Police Department's newest tracking dogs, will perform on the job.

The canine's theatrics were part of a ceremony Monday afternoon at Vancouver City Hall to showcase the two new Vancouver police dogs and a new Skamania County sheriff's dog.

While it wasn't technically a graduation because the canines have already hit the streets since completing the training May 24, Vancouver police Chief Cliff Cook took the ceremony as a time to present the dogs and handlers with plaques, recognizing their 400 hours of training. In response, the dogs sounded off.

"Well, you've heard from the dogs. We're all done," Cook quipped, eliciting laughs from the audience.

Ike, the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Ory, a 2-year-old German shepherd, are the VPD's latest additions, succeeding two retiring canines, Kenai and Farley. Arai, a 2-year-old German shepherd, is the newest canine for the Skamania County Sheriff's Office and replaces a retiring German shepherd, Ezra.

The Vancouver police dogs were paid for entirely by community donations; Ike cost $8,000 and Ory was $9,600. Skamania County's new canine was $9,600 and was paid for from the sheriff's drug fund.

The police department now has four tracking dogs; Skamania County has two dogs, including one designated for narcotic searches.

Before the handlers gave a demonstration of their tracking methods,

Anderson explained to the audience the importance of having police dogs. The audience included several community donors.

Because of their heightened senses, dogs can detect narcotics and track suspects more swiftly than their human counterparts. For instance, if four officers searched a building, "it's seven times faster doing it with a dog," he said.

"Your safety's better; it's faster," Anderson told the crowd. "They do a lot for us and we appreciate your donations."

All three dogs are cross-trained to search for narcotics as well as track suspects. Outside, on a city hall terrace, the canines showed off both skills.

Officer Ryan Starbuck's dog, Ory, demonstrated his nose for detecting drugs. Officers placed several colorful bags on the ground. Then, Ory was unleashed and quickly began sniffing all the bags. When the dog found the bag containing marijuana, Ory sat down on hind legs, tail wagging.

Then, when Ellithorpe walked onto the terrace in the bite suit, all three dogs started howling. Ellithorpe lingered in front of Ike before turning and running in the opposite direction. The dog chased him down and held Ellithorpe's arm until he was commanded to release.

As a grand finale, both Arai and Ory then latched on to Ellithorpe's arm.

The dogs aren't all about show. Since they've been on the streets, Ike and Ory have assisted in the capture of five suspects, Anderson said. "We've had a good couple of weeks," he said.

Laura McVicker: http://twitter.com/col_courts;http://facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.