By Morgan Manns
Fostoria police officer Brandon Bell and canine officer Riky were the guest speakers at the city’s Block Watch meeting Wednesday evening at Flippin’ Jimmy’s.
The meeting was centered around the roles of canine officers and their handlers. Fostoria’s canine officers are Riky, who works alongside Bell, and Marley, who works with Officer Don Dennis.
“It’s invaluable for the city to have these dogs,” Bell said. “It’s amazing all the things they do every day.”
Canine officers must be trained before they begin working. During their training, Bell said they learn five drug scents: cocaine, heroin, ecstacy, marijuana and a derivative of those drugs, or a chemical component, which is used in every illegal drug.
A toy is used as a reward when the canines find the drugs. During a drug search, the canines will then associate the smell of drugs with their toy.
“They think it’s just coming out of nowhere,” he said. “It’s so rewarding seeing them happy and having fun.”
Bell said that dogs’ sense of smell is “one hundred times better” than human beings, giving the example of the chicken smell in Flippin’ Jimmy’s, saying that where humans smell the scent that is most overwhelming, dogs can smell each individual scent: chicken, bread, butter, sauce, etc.
Bell and Riky, as well as Dennis and Marley, go through some sort of training every week.
Bell has been with the department for roughly five and a half years and has worked with Riky for a little over three years.
In that time, Bell said together they have discovered about $20-30,000 worth of drugs.
He recalled the biggest bust he and Riky handled was when they were searching a residence in which the residents appeared to be moving out. Riky started jumping up towards the ceiling in what the police call “in odor,” which is when their body posture and breathing changes as a reaction to finding the scent of drugs.
Bell said he looked up and didn’t know where it could be.
“I saw the ceiling fan going and then saw an attic access and was like ‘duh,'” he said. “I opened the access and then it was very apparent to me. It was amazing that he was able to smell that from 10 feet up in the air. He couldn’t have done anything better other than get a ladder, climb up there and get it himself.”
Riky is only a narcotics dog, which means he isn’t trained as a patrol dog who chases subjects; however, Marley is both a patrol and a narcotics canine.
Bell said this fact should allow for the department to keep Riky longer than the average eight and a half years because he has “less wear and tear.”
Riky is seven years old, while Marley will be two this week. Marley replaced the late Ninja, who passed away in March 2013.
“We’re very lucky to have two dogs, especially with the size of our community,” Bell said.
He described Riky as a “big baby,” explaining that he sleeps in between Bell and his wife every night and puts his head on Bell’s chest.
“He’s just like a child,” Bell said. “It’s rewarding to go to work with him everyday. Not only is it my joy of being with him by the joy of seeing him get excited about going to work. He sees me putting on my uniform and he spins in circles barking.”
One of the three community members who attended the meeting said, “It would be nice to get more and more people here to hear this regularly so they can appreciate it.”
“Unfortunately in our job we see a lot of bad. It’s good to see people in the community that come together and are trying to make it better,” Bell said. “Recently, with the passing of Ninja, we received an outpouring for him and the purchase of a new dog. It was amazing. Nearly all of it, if not all of it, was paid for in donations. That support is something we didn’t see prior.”
Block Watch meetings are scheduled at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month. Next month’s meeting will feature a representative from ADT, giving a presentation on home security systems. Meeting locations change every month in an effort to get community members into different businesses within the community. Location information can be found on the city’s Facebook, in the newspaper, or by contacting the mayor’s office at 419-435-8282.
For more information on Block Watch meetings or to offer a suggestion for a meeting topic, call the mayor’s office.