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Crawford County students participating in Project Lead watch as Department of Natural Resources K-9s work at Patoka Lake. Four of the dogs, including a bloodhound named Jenny that belongs to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, received their deputy badges later that day after completing a training program that lasted several months. Photo by Lee Cable

K-9s give kids look at law enforcement

April 28, 2010
Kids participating in the annual Project Lead program are given the opportunity to see how the court system works and how law enforcement officers do their jobs. The program hopes that the exposure will lead to a better understanding of law enforcement and shed a positive light on the relationship between the community and those who work to enforce local and state laws.

The program, sponsored by the Purdue Extension office and 4-H, takes fifth- and sixth-graders into the courtroom and allows them to see how Judge Lynn Lopp decides cases and how Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg handles and prosecutes criminal cases.

Students are also taken to Patoka Lake where they observe divers from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources demonstrate how they search for evidence and drowning victims underwater. Conservation Officers Terry Allen, who helps organize the event, and Ryan Jahn, both DNR divers, recently demonstrated how divers perform their job. Allen has been working with Project Lead for more than 12 years.

In past years, Conservation Officer Jeff Milner brought his dog, Journey, a trained K-9 search and rescue dog, to Patoka, talked to the kids about the K-9 program and had Journey perform searches in a field, where she was always able to find a weapon, no matter how well it was hidden. But this year, Milner announced that Journey was getting on in years and, due to deteriorating health, had been retired from service. Milner, who has been training K-9 dogs for 14 years, brought his new dog, Voyage, to perform for the students. And the kids were treated to a surprise when seven other K-9 dogs, including one from the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, showed up to take part in the program.

The dogs varied in breed, but they were trained to do similar jobs such as search and rescue, find narcotics, and weapons and evidence recovery. One dog, an Airedale terrier named Apollo, tracked an officer across a field, down a road and up a sidewalk, where the dog and his handler, Conservation Officer Gary Pennington, found the man hiding behind the rest room building.

Officer Jon Fennig, from Johnson County, brought his dog, Abby, who has been working as a K-9 dog for two years. Abby, a chocolate Lab, was credited with finding an alleged murderer and also a gun that was used to kill a boy in Monroe County.

Sarge, a 12-year-old K-9 was also there from Lagrange with his handler and trainer, Anthony Runyon. And Ike, a 1-year-old dog from Cass County, was on hand with his trainer and owner Officer Brenda Louthain, who has been in the K-9 program for 11 years. Officer Ted Stine brought his young K-9 ADDi from Shelby County, and Officer Justin Blake brought Major, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, to participate in the program.

The Crawford County Sheriff's Department was represented by Jenny, a bloodhound trained by Deputy Shawn Scott.

"Jenny was donated to us as a puppy by Bell's Bloodhounds in Danville," Scott said. "They normally sell for about $600 each. We pay for her food and medical expenses with commissary money, and a vet donates some of her medical needs like heartworm medicine. So, she doesn't cost the taxpayers anything. We will take donations of pet supplies if anyone would like to help out with the program."

After the Project Lead program was completed, the officers took their dogs to the DNR office at Patoka where the four younger K-9 recruits were deputized. Once a dog has become a K-9 police officer, any act against them can be prosecuted the same as any other deputy.

"I'm really pleased with this program," Mike Crider, DNR director, who was present during the program, said. "There are really a good, high quality bunch of folks in this program, and they work hard at it and take it seriously. We work and interact well with other agencies, and we're proud of what the K-9 program has accomplished."

At the DNR office, the four new dogs were called forward to receive their badges and became deputies.

Major, Ike and ADDi received their badges, then Jenny, the bloodhound, was called forward. Her new badge was attached to her collar, making her the newest deputy in Crawford County.

"I really appreciate the DNR for allowing our department to train with them," Sheriff Tim Wilkerson said. "I've used Jeff Milner and his dogs a lot of times through the years. And it's good to have our own dog. If we find even one lost child or missing person, it's all worth it."

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