Police department hires its newest officer

Chase Buford Hill is not your average 2-year-old. Chase already has a work ethic.

Chase is a 2-year-old German Shepherd originally from the Netherlands and the newest member of the Sequim Police Department. Following more than 400 hours of training, Chase will be taking over duties as the four-legged half of the department's K-9 unit later this year. The department's current canine officer, Titus, who recently was found to have allergies, will be retired. Unlike Titus, Chase will be used by the department for patrolling, not drug searches, although he may be trained later to do both.

According to Officer Mike Hill, the human half of

Sequim's K-9 unit, the decision to switch from narcotics to patrolling came after increases of assaults, felonies and physical altercations between officers and suspects.

"So rather than trying to catch up, Chief (Robert) Spinks - and I completely agree with him - thought let's be ahead of the game and have this patrol dog. There's uses for patrol dogs all the time," explained Hill.

Chase was selected from about 50 dogs at a kennel in North Carolina. Hill spent close to a week examining the dogs for traits that would be most suitable for the department's purposes.

"You want them to obviously be friendly. You don't want a vicious dog that just wants to bite everything, but they have to be able to know when it's time to work. Work to them is like play," Hill said, adding that he also looked to make sure Chase was able to walk on a number of different surfaces, that he could retrieve, had tracking skills and a good nose.

"Everybody wants something a little different."

Whereas K-9 narcotics work requires only 200 hours of training, Chase's training requires at least 400 hours because of the combination of tracking and bite work. Chase also will have to go through much more agility training than Titus did. Chase, who weighs only 65 pounds, will be expected to run at high speeds for long distances, be able to scale fences and jump through windows.

Those who have gotten used to the sight of Titus over the past couple of years - his floppy ear and what looks like a broad smile - might get a bit of a shock seeing Chase for the first time. He's smaller, with a darker face that likes him look almost serious and wolf-like, but according to Hill, appearances can be deceiving and Chase is just as happy-go-lucky as his predecessor.

"He's just over 2 years old and he's still very much a puppy, so a lot of people are surprised when I first do the introductions. They're really standoffish because they think there's going to be these barking teeth at the end of the leash, but he comes out of the car and jumps up and will want to lick your face," Hill said.

Hill and Chase will begin training in mid-April. Although Titus still is on duty, Hill has begun taking Chase into work with him to familiarize him with the police station and his new co-workers.

"He's been through a lot of change in the last two weeks, so I bring him around with me a lot so that we have a bond. He knows he's in one place; he's not going to be shipped around anymore. This is the third night I've brought him to work. The first night he was a little nervous about what was going on, smelling everything, but last night he was running around, tail wagging," Hill said.

Chase has had almost no training, that includes simple commands of sit, down, heel, so in the past two weeks Hill has started training Chase from scratch.

"I'm constantly amazed at how smart German shepherds are. Within five minutes he knew how to heel, and by the second day he was sitting every time I told him to sit. That's compared to a bulldog that I have at home who after a year still doesn't know how to heel or down. She lies down when she feels like it."

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