County commissioners Don Suppes and Mike Lane were introduced to new officers from the sheriff's office at their Jan. 22 meeting: Sgt. Keith Sanders and his partner K-9 Officer Oxx, a Belgian Malinois.
Officer Oxx demonstrated his search-and-find training by easily finding a stash of narcotics that had been hidden in the room before he arrived.
Oxx responded to other commands from Sgt. Sanders, and had his photo taken sitting in Commissioner Mark Roeber's chair. Commission Roeber was absent that day.
Sgt. Sanders and Oxx joined the Delta Sheriff's Office on Jan. 8. It was a lateral move for the two from the Montrose County Sheriff's Office where they had been partners for eight years.
Oxx will be 9 years old Feb. 10.
Sgt. Sanders started his partnership with K-9 officers with the Ouray County Sheriff's Office. He and his K-9 partner Sasha worked together for over three years.
When the partners are working on a narcotics assignment, Sgt. Sanders gives Oxx the command, "Find it." When Oxx finds the narcotics, he brings them back to Sgt. Sanders. Oxx sits and stares and Sgt. Sanders give him a reward.
In a law enforcement situation where a suspect is noncompliant with the commands of a human officer, Sgt. Sanders gives Oxx the command "Apprehend." Oxx grabs some part of the suspect's body in his mouth and does not release the individual until Sgt. Sanders has the suspect in handcuffs.
When the two get to a safe place, Oxx is given a tug toy or praise reward, such as a ball or Kong toy.
Oxx also participates in tracking of criminals and the search for lost persons.
Sgt. Sanders and Oxx visit schools and the students interact with Oxx. Oxx is experienced in locker sniffing in middle schools and high schools.
The two officers participate in pet safety events and help people learn how to react, for example, if they are approached by a strange dog in a park.
"Officer Oxx and I participate in community events and special events. We like to be highly involved in the community and to show that involvement. We all benefit from our involvement with the community," Sgt. Sanders said.
When on duty, Officer Oxx wears a bulletproof vest. He may be called to duty in dangerous places.
When not on duty, Officer Oxx lives at home with Sgt. Sanders and his family. "In the summer he just lies around and relaxes, just like a normal dog," Sgt. Sanders said.
Sgt. Sanders said that the most important trait law enforcement officers and trainers of K-9 officers look for in prospective K-9 officers is the dog's drive. The level of drive a dog has helps determine how successful the dog will be as a K-9 officer.
The K-9 officers must be trained sufficiently to earn both state and federal licensing.
The cost for narcotics training only is $5,500 per narcotic.
There are five other recognized areas of training: tracking, apprehension, area searches, wooded area searches, and building searches, including clearing the building of people. With all his certifications, K-9 Oxx is valued at $60,000.
Private citizens and community businesses often contribute to the purchase of K-9 officers and needed supplies for K-9 officers.
Murdoch's sponsors Oxx, covering Chow Down pet food and pet supplies every month.
Oxx's vest costs $800. Impact resistant crates for Oxx when he is traveling cost $800 to $900.
Cash donations for dog treats and higher cost items can be made through the sheriff's office.
Sgt. Sanders is training K-9 Officer Roo, who is one and half years old. Roo will be set to take Oxx's place when Oxx retires.