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Canine Officers and their dogs speak a different language

Canine officers Patrick Weston and Gary Craig and their police dogs, Titan and Kilo, are helping lead the fight against crime in King George County. But the two deputy sheriffs and their crime busting K-9 companions speak a different language.
The King George Sheriff’s Office received Titan four years ago from the Czech Republic and Kilo was obtained last year from The Netherlands.  Since both dogs had begun training in their home languages, Weston and Craig learned to issue commands to their dogs in Czech and Dutch as they trained with the animals when they arrived at the Virginia Police Canine Association in Culpeper.

“Actually, we have learned that using a different language for commands is beneficial,” said King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey.  “This way, if a suspect we are pursuing tells a dog to “stay” the dog doesn’t respond.”

Dempsey was actually King George’s first canine officer beginning in 1980.  “My dog’s name was Bandit. He loved to work and be in the patrol car.”  King George was just the third area jurisdiction to have a K-9 unit, after Stafford and Fredericksburg.

“The commitment, dedication and loyalty is amazing with K-9 teams, it goes both ways from handler to dog and from dog to handler,” said Dempsey.  Titan and Kilo, both German Shepherds, are used for search and rescue; narcotics detection; building searches; and tracking and pursuit of fleeing suspects.  

“The success most often experienced is the immediate surrender of the suspect when they see the dogs,” said Dempsey. The dogs, along with Weston and Craig, are certified by the Virginia Police Canine Association as well as the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

“You train and train and then he goes out and finds a suspect or narcotics. It’s really rewarding,” said Weston, who has been with the King George Sheriff’s Office for 10 years. “If someone is hiding in a home or building, he will find them.”

Both Weston and Craig keep the dogs with them at their homes.  Weston is single. Craig is married with a 21-month-old daughter. “She does great with him and my dog loves her as well,” said Craig.  “The dog becomes part of your family,” said Weston.

Weston and Craig have home kennels for their dogs. The kennels were constructed by the King George Sheriff’s Office. They are 8 by 12 storage units with porches, heaters for winter and cooling fans for summer. Craig says both dogs spend a lot of time with the officers whether they are on duty or off duty.

“I really enjoy the companionship of my dog,” said Craig. “Spending all that time together, finding a suspect or narcotics and doing the training.” Craig said his wife Ryan, who is from a police family, is also learning how to say the various commands in Dutch.  Down the road he hopes his toddler daughter, Riley, will join in the conversations with Kilo.

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