REEDSPORT — A new addition has joined the Reedsport Police Department family, as a new K9 officer joins the team.
Faran is a one-and-a-half year old Belgian Malinois, a type of Dutch Shepherd, trained for narcotics detection. He was born in Germany at a kennel that specializes in dogs for law enforcement. The RPD got him from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, where he was trained as a patrol and narcotics dog before deciding to go in a different direction. The RPD picked Faran up the week of Thanksgiving. Since then, Officer J. Wood has been training with Faran to find narcotics and signal as well as to recognize Wood as his handler.
"I went over to Bend for five weeks, for 200 hours of training," said Wood. "We imprinted him and we certified as a narcotics detection team."
Wood noted that imprinting is training the K9 what smells to look for and to indicate a location to the handler. Much like registered, working service animals, a K9 officer can only work with a specific handler. Another officer can't take Faran on a call, and Wood can't go out on a call with a different K9.
The team certified Jan. 7 and has deployed several times over the last month.
Faran is still largely a puppy, though he's nearing full maturity, possessing boundless energy and wanting to play. During the interview, the K9 took every opportunity to jump up on Wood or try to chew his leash. At one point he started chewing on a leaf, only dropping it when Wood called to him, and at another he started playing with Wood's shoelaces. Dutch Shepherds are a breed that requires kenneling, lots of outdoor space, or constant supervision, since they'll burn off their energy by destroying a room if left to their own devices.
"A bored mal is a destructive mal," said Wood of Faran's energy level. "If I didn't stop him, he'd pull the laces off my shoes while I'm wearing them."
Dutch Shepherds are similar to German Shepherds, bearing a resemblance in their appearance though with a flatter back. Dutch Shepherds, however, tend to be smaller and lighter built, more athletic, and more energetic than their cousins. According to Wood, a Dutch Shepherd would beat a German Shepherd in a race, and would take a straight line path by jumping over obstacles that a German Shepherd would go around. He added that Faran has been known to jump close to six feet high from flat footing.
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Wood also stressed that Faran is not trained to be a pet, and wears a large collar telling people not to pet the dog. Faran is being socialized to be around others, but the nature of the breed is to be loyal and skittish around new people. Wood warned that if a hand were presented to Faran to smell, he would likely bite it.
Faran joins the RPD after J.D., the police department's other K9 officer, retired from police work last year. According to Wood, J.D. didn't have the right personality or drive for police work. Though he was great while on and actively hunting, he would sometimes have low motivation and not want to follow commands. Wood added that this is fairly common and just dependent on an individual dogs' personality.
Faran, by contrast, has very high drive. Wood said he loves to hunt and has lots of energy to run around with.
"(Faran) self-fulfills by hunting," Wood said of the dog's love of searching for things. "If I took him over to the cars, he would immediately start sniffing around, looking underneath it, in the engine, in the wheel wells, on top of it. He'll go anywhere I want him to."
Though J.D. is retired, he is still in the Reedsport area, staying with Wood and his family.
The police department hopes to eventually train Faran to track and help find lost people or fugitives. Any plans to expand the K9 unit with additional dogs are still up in the air.
Faran was named after a horse in a book Wood read. He said he liked the name and couldn't see himself using the name the dog was originally given.