With one wet nose and four legs each, two of the Roswell Police Department’s most recent recruits stand out from their colleagues on the force.
Auda, a German Shepherd, and Kazan, a shepherd mix, each joined the ranks of the RPD in late April when the department launched its newly re-established K-9 Unit.
The two dogs specialize in drug detection and searching for missing people.
Phil Smith, Roswell police chief, said both dogs hailed from Europe.
The department once had a K-9 unit but the program eventually ended. However, with the help of about $40,500 in private contributions from individuals, the department has been able to bring it back.
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Smith said given the prevalence of drugs in Roswell, the dogs are useful.
“It’s just needed. Everyone was talking about why don’t you have a dog here because of the drug problem,” Smith said.
Auda and Kazan — each about two years of age — are partnered with a handler, an officer assigned to train, work and even live with a dog.
Officer Ashley Wood is one of two handlers with the department’s unit. She said the idea of being a K-9 officer has always intrigued her.
An officer with the department for seven years, including time as a detective, Wood said she was eager to become a K-9 officer.
“And it has always been my dream job to be a K-9 handler because I love dogs and I wanted to be part of the solution to the drug problem in this town,” she said.
To become part of the unit, both Wood and Auda had to undergo three weeks of training at a facility in Liberty Hill, Texas to get certified.
During that period, the dog and handler build a rapport with one another, while the handler receives training in narcotics detection, learns about the indicators dogs give when they find drugs and some aspects of tracking, for when dogs are utilized to help find missing people.
Lt. Albert Aldana of the Roswell Police Department, who oversees the training program during his on-duty hours, said the dogs are another tool in the department’s arsenal.
“It’s no different than carrying an extra flashlight or something. Something that can help us to further our investigations,” he said.
For Wood though, Auda is a companion whom she not only works but lives with. The two have established a bond as strong as any two people.
“It’s amazing the bond you build with your dog,” she said. “You guys go everywhere together, you guys are a constant team. You train together on a weekly basis. You are always together; that dog is going to protect you no matter what.”
Typically, Wood said the day begins with both waking up. Wood then goes to the backyard and cleans Auda’s kennel and feeds her. After a little time running around together, Auda is allowed to run around and exercise for a while and is then placed back in her kennel until the two go to work.
The two then travel around in their car, responding to traffic stops and other calls where a dog is needed or to track missing people.
“And then when we go home, she eats again and it is bedtime,” Wood said.
Each of the dogs cost the department about $9,000. Auda and Kazan each were born in Europe and spent time in Poland before being brought to the U.S.
Decades ago, departments used to get dogs free of cost that were not wanted and then train them for their K-9 units, Smith said.
Now, dogs for a K-9 unit can run anywhere from $9,000 to $25,000 depending on a dog’s ability, such as whether they can detect bombs and explosives, neither of which Auda and Kazan are trained to do.
The department was able to bring back its K-9 program mostly because of private donations from the public, most recently a $10,000 contribution presented to representatives of the RPD from the owner of the Home2 Suites Hilton Hotel on North Virginia Avenue. The donation was among six totaling $40,500 made to the department so far for the program.
Aldana said the money will go toward getting a third dog for the unit and maybe cover the cost of dog food.
Wood said the department is thankful for the donations because the unit would not be where it is without them. The plan, Aldana said, is to have at least four dogs and four handlers by some time next year.
Officers are eager to become handlers, he said, but many of them are busy performing other functions.
Among the law-abiding public, Wood said the dogs have been a big plus. Auda is friendly and excited around people and people often feel the same way about her.
“They see dogs and they love dogs. And then they see an officer dog that is going to come clean up this town with the drug problem, and they love it even more,” Wood said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or email@example.com.