Closed Delaware Hotel serves as K-9 training ground

By ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

Although the condemned Delaware Hotel is closed to guests, area police are finding a use for it.

On Tuesday, K-9 officers from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and Delaware City and Dublin Police, accompanied by their human partners, practiced searching for drugs on the building’s second floor.

Thor, a black-and-brown German Shepherd, rummaged through a room for the hidden contraband. He sniffed the television console, bed and desk.

“Where is it boy?” Sgt. Larry Dore asked. “You smell it?”

Thor began barking and scratching at an air-conditioning unit in the corner of the room.

“Good boy,” Dore said, patting Thor before handing him a worn rubber toy used as a reward and training tool.

Deputies converted heroin, hashish, cocaine and methamphetamine from the sheriff’s office evidence room for use in the training.

The hotel’s caretakers agreed to allow police, who are always looking for new locations to train their dogs, use the site for training. Police make efforts to expose dogs to different environments so they can perform more effectively in field work.

Because of the unpredictability the field, variety is crucial in all aspects of training, Dublin Police Officer Eric Cochrun said. For example, if the hidden drugs were all in the same type of packaging, the dogs might become accustomed to look for a particular kind of material instead of keying in on the drugs’ smell.

“We don’t want to train them to find plastic bags,” Cochrun said. “We want them to find drugs.”

So, officers hid the drugs wrapped in nylon, aluminum foil and even in a wooden box. During training, the officers also hide dog food, air fresheners and other fragrant items that criminals might use to conceal the scent of drugs.

The hotel’s size, amount of rooms and variety of smells there made it an attractive site to conduct training, Delaware County Sheriff Walter L. Davis III said.

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office currently has two K-9 officers, named Thor and Rocky. A third dog retired in September and the sheriff’s office is currently seeking a replacement.

“Our K-9s are valuable law enforcement tools,” Davis wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette. “The dogs are used in a variety of ways including detecting narcotics, tracking people, evidence recovery and suspect apprehension.”

Employees with the Ashley-based dog-training company Azzi International walked two K-9s-in-training, Elvis and King, through the exercises. The dogs, which are imported from Europe, require months of training before they are ready for the field.

The sheriff’s office is considering buying Elvis, but Davis said it was too early to make a final decision.

“It is helpful to observe a dog in training but it’s too early for us to make a decision,” Davis said. First, the sheriff’s office would need to hire a K-9 handler, he said. “The match between a handler and a K-9 is very important.”

Cochrun, a six-year veteran of the Dublin Police Department, has worked with his K-9 partner Bairre for three years.

At the end of the day, Bairre goes home with Cochrun and roams free around the house along with his other three dogs. Cochrun described the trust he has with K-9 partner, Bairre, as a “powerful partnership.”

“I spend more time with that dog than my wife and kids,” Cochrun said.

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