Lazy days await Washougal police K-9

Department's Dingo to retire after 7 years in October

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoDingo, Washougal's K-9 unit dog, will retire in October after seven years of service. Dingo specializes in drug detection, particularly marijuana, which is now legal in small amounts in Washington

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

Help Pay for Dingo’s replacement

Nonprofit Dog Owners Group for Park Access in Washington has begun taking donations to pay for replacing Washougal’s police dog, Dingo. There are several ways to donate, the organization says. PayPal payments may be made to http://clarkdogpaw.org/dingo. A savings account has been set up in Dingo’s name at Chase Bank, where people may donate by asking for the DogPaw-Dingo savings account. Checks can also be mailed to DOGPAW, 13504 N.E. 84th St., Suite 103, PMB 303 Vancouver.

When rooting out bad guys, the nose knows — at least for Dingo, the Washougal police dog.

But the 9-year-old Dutch shepherd's days on the force are numbered. He'll be burying his badge in October — so to speak — as he retires from the Washougal Police Department after seven years of service. The four-legged crime fighter, specializing in drug detection, will spend his dog days comfortably as a house pet.

Chalk that up, in part, to changes in Washington's marijuana laws, which allow people 21 and older to carry up to an ounce of pot, as opposed to any holes in his finely tuned olfactory senses. The other factor is his age. At 9 years old -- 63 in people years -- he's reached retirement age.

"With the new marijuana laws in place, it doesn't make any sense to use a dog that will alert on marijuana," said Cmdr. Allen Cook of the Washougal Police Department. "We want (the dog) focusing on what we know will be illegal narcotics."

That's part of recent shift for police departments statewide, which are contending with how to police drugs in the shadow of legalized marijuana.

In September, the Vancouver Police Department and Clark County Sheriff's Office will hold a joint 10-week training session for all of the county's new K-9 units, including Washougal's. Certification of the police dogs will follow the training sessions.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys told police departments in a December memo that drug cases built on police dogs alerting on marijuana will face limitations. While dogs are still being trained to sniff out drugs, there's now a greater emphasis on heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Following the fall training session, there will be up to 11 K-9 units working for the county's police agencies. Washougal's new police dog will be cross-trained in drug detection and catching criminals on the run.

Battle Ground, Vancouver and Washougal police departments, along with the Washington State Patrol and the Clark County Sheriff's Office, will all have police dogs. Battle Ground's K-9, Haulf, also will be retiring this year.

Dingo's handler, housemate and partner on patrol is Officer Kyle Day. A 14-year veteran of the force, he's been with Dingo since the training stage. He will keep Dingo in his retirement.

When Dingo joined the force, the department was working drug enforcement heavily, Day said. It's something the department still plans to do, but it will help to have a dog that can also aid in pursuits.

Day said the new K-9 will still be able to sniff out pot, especially large quantities of it.

"There are certain parameters where (marijuana is) legal now, so it's not as important," Day noted. "But it's still illegal for kids and major delivery operations."

In Dingo's long career, he's been at the center of a number of drug busts. He even appeared on an episode of "Cops" in 2007, in which he located a pound and a half of cocaine in Portland.

Day points to the smaller drug busts as some of his favorites. In one, police were combing state Highway 14 for a container, thought to contain drugs, that was thrown from a moving car. In the dark, with rain pouring down, police officers weren't having any luck finding it.

That's when Dingo came on the scene. His nose knew exactly where the vial of heroin was located.

"We wouldn't have been able to find it without him," Day said.

While the Washougal Police Department plans to replace Dingo, it doesn't have the financial resources to do so. It costs between $8,000 and $10,000 to buy and train a new dog, a cost that doesn't include travel expenses.

A volunteer-run nonprofit called the Dog Owners Group for Park Access in Washington, DogPaw for short, is teaming with the police department to replace Dingo.

The organization manages the county's dog parks, three of which are named after police dogs that have been killed in the line of duty.

The nonprofit is accepting donations that will be used to find and train Dingo's successor. It hopes to raise $15,000 to cover the costs of Dingo's replacement, said Mark Watson, a DogPaw board member who's leading the fundraising efforts.

"It's nice that we can help Dingo become a couch potato," Watson said.

And that's not too far from Day's plans for his partner and pet. The retirement is well-earned, he said, because all of the cases Dingo has helped crack.

"He's done a really good job," Day said. "He's been a good partner."

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com