Friday, September 19, 2014

GUEST BLOG by Cst. Eric LeQuesne | Five Days in Kelowna, The Canadian Police Canine Championships

Five Days in Kelowna, The Canadian Police Canine Championship 2014

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Tuesday, September 9th:

It is Tuesday night, and I am packing up my suitcase getting ready to go to Kelowna for the Canadian Police Canine Championship (CPCA). As I am getting ready, my daughter, who is just weeks away from turning three, is also getting a bag packed and ready to go to Nana’s house for a sleepover. I will be leaving at the crack of dawn the next day and my wife is also working a day shift. The little one tells me that she wants me to pack something of hers to bring to Kelowna with me, so she gets me her favorite item in the world.... a stick from our front yard that she has brought inside from one of our many excursions to the park. I laugh, that out of the dozen toys and stuffed animals she has, she chooses a stick, I of course pack it and take it with me to Kelowna, and maybe it will be my lucky stick.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014:

Five in the morning is when I wake up in order to get loaded and make the first ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, starting the journey to Kelowna. As I am clearing the fog in my head, I get PSD Diesel out of his kennel, let him out for a nature break and feed him breakfast. He is wide awake, running, jumping, and whining in excitement. He has no idea where we are going, or what we are doing, he is just happy to be going in the truck and hopefully getting to work. He could really teach me a thing or two about waking up in the morning. 

Diesel and I head to Cst. Ewer’s house to load up PSD Diesel into a kennel in the back of a dog truck with PSD Bondo riding in the main kennel and head out to the ferry. Sorry to Cst. Ewer’s neighbours for the barking in the morning, Bondo and Diesel were just excited to see each other.

As we arrive at the ferry, there are a lot of tired eyes and coffees being consumed in the line-up. No one more tired than Cst. McLeod and PSD Uno who had just worked all night and had drove straight from work to the ferry. It is decided that I will drive Cst. McLeod and Uno to Kelowna to allow them to sleep.

After a four-plus hour drive, with a brief pit stop at the Tourist information centre in Merritt B.C. (where I highly recommend you try the samosas) we arrive in Kelowna. The parking lot is loaded with police dog vehicles from all over B.C and Alberta. Hopefully the other guests at the hotel like dogs, because when one started barking in the parking lot they all started barking.

The first night is a meet and great with all the other handlers from across the country. I learn that we will be competing against teams from: Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Regina, Vancouver, Saanich and the RCMP. Further there are teams from CBSA and both federal and provincial corrections that will be competing in either drug or bomb detection.

The next day will be the CPCA annual general meeting as well as team bonding activities with the competition starting on Friday.

Friday, September 12, 2014:

Friday morning has arrived and Diesel and I start with the tracking competition. To say I was nervous this morning would be an understatement. Diesel and I have put in countless hours training for tracking as I believe it is the bread and butter of what a police dog team do. As a K9 team you are usually called to a scene for wanted people, or a high risk missing person or child and all eyes are on you and your dog to locate them.

Now I am at a competition being judged on those hours and hours of training, knowing that Diesel and I have only been on the road since this past January, and we are competing against teams that have three to five years of service under their belts.

While we are driving to the venue I am tempted to give Diesel a pep talk, I bounce back and forth between putting on the Rocky soundtrack, or quoting some lines from movies but as I look back at him pacing in the kennel of the dog truck I know he is ready to go; just as he is always ready to go. Now that I have checked my nerves we roll up to the tracking venue for our 10:40 a.m. start time. I’m ready to get the dog out of the truck and track, only to be told there is a delay and we have to wait… time for the nerves to come back. Now that I have to wait, I check my pocket to ensure that I have my lucky stick with me.

Almost two hours later I am on the field with Diesel and ready to go. I put him in his harness, put his tracking line on and assist him out of the truck. We walk to the judges to get our instructions. 
Although I’m nervous, I can assure you Diesel is not. He is pulling like a mad man to get on the field. He’s jumping, barking, whining. He knows we are at the tracking field and he knows what we are there to do. We get our start point and off we go! Diesel is pulling hard into the track and I’m behind. As the track comes to an end Diesel is exhausted. It is almost 25 degrees on the field at that time, and he just worked his butt off. I give him a ton of praise and load him into the truck for a much needed water break, leaving the field knowing that the first event is completed, but that I will have to wait till Sunday to find out how we did. I started the dog course with Diesel in September 2013 and one year later I am still in awe of his ability to track.

That afternoon it is onto a building search scenario. The scenario is that an office building has been broken into and that the suspect, or suspects, is still inside. It is a judged event and we only have 15 minutes to search the entire building. Diesel locates two “suspects” hiding in the building by sitting outside of the closed doors they are hiding behind and barking. I bring Diesel back to me and call out the suspects who are taken out of the building by the judges. Diesel and I also located a weapon inside the building and conclude the scenario.

We made it through day one.

Saturday, September 13

Day two consists of an evidence search scenario in the morning and a compound search in the afternoon. The evidence search is in a massive towing yard and the scenario is that you are called to the scene of a violent crime and you need to located a piece, or pieces, of evidence… and of course you only have ten minutes to do it. After a frantic search around cars, a rusted old truck, some prickle pushes, boats and boat trailers, Diesel locates one piece of evidence. I have no idea if there was more, and if there was more, how many more, but we walk back to the truck knowing that we found one piece and we had a desire to do better in the afternoon.

The afternoon is a compound search scenario. Similar to the building search scenario, a compound has been broken into by an unknown number of suspects and they are still within the scenario.  After searching for almost 15 minutes Diesel locates two suspects and two weapons associated to the suspects and we call it a day.

After two successful days at the competition, Sunday brings the public day, where people from Kelowna come to watch you and your dog work.

Sunday, September 14:

Public day starts at seven in the morning with a breakfast for the handlers and judges at the Apple Bowl Stadium. Public day was broken down into three events: Obedience, Agility, and Criminal Apprehension. It was a beautiful day in Kelowna and I expected the crowd to be good for the event, but the community of Kelowna amazed me. The rough estimate is that between 4000 and 5000 people attended the public day event. It was fantastic to see them all there in the stadium supporting us and donating to the BC Children’s Hospital. Diesel and I were in the second group of five dog teams with PSD Bondo and PSD Uno.

The event started with our obedience routine. It is one thing to head to a school field and do obedience with your dog with no one watching. It is a bit more nerve racking when 5000 people are watching you and your dog work. The routine was a bunch of turns, long sits, long downs, recalling the dog and retrieving a reward. Diesel did amazing and I was a very proud dog dad. It was then on to the agility course.

The agility course was comprised of the following obstacles: a tunnel, a table top the dog had to go under, a 5-foot fence, a tire to jump through, a dog walk balance beam and barrels to jump over. Things started well with Diesel going through the tunnel and under the table top. We got to the fence and he looked at me, his eyes saying, “why would I go over top of this when I could just run around it?” I can’t say I blame him for looking for the quickest way through the course, but as we are a team I lifted him up and over the fence. The rest of the routine went well and we finished it with smiles on our faces and a wave to the crowd as they enjoyed watching Diesel work as much as I do.

The crowd loved watching the Criminal Apprehension portion of the day. The crowd was able to see a dog stop on a dime and lay down from a full sprint when directed by their handler; this is prior to making contact with the suspect. They also got to see a dog advance on a violent suspect who had just fired a blank gun in their hand. All dogs did very well in all scenarios, Diesel included.

After the public day was the awards banquet, where you finally get to see how you did in your events. You also get to see if you won a medal, as they are given out to the top five finishers in each scenario. I went to the dog trials to get some experience and to take myself out of my comfort zone and to allow Diesel and I to grow as a team. I knew we would be up against some amazing teams from across the country so I knew competition to finish in the top five of any profile would be tough.
All Victoria Police dogs did amazing at the trials.

All three of us placed in the top five in Criminal Apprehension, with Cst Ewer and Bondo 2nd, Cst McLeod and Uno 3RD and Diesel and I 5th.

Cst McLeod and Uno won the obedience profile and finished 5th in the evidence search.
Diesel and I finished 5th in tracking.

Further, Cst. McLeod and Uno finished second overall for entire competition right behind the eventual winner, Cst. Zielinski and PSD Zeke from our neighbours to the north, the Saanich Police.

The results show the time and effort the entire Victoria Police K9 Unit puts into training these dogs.  We all help each other throughout our time in the unit, and to be rewarded for the hard work is nice.
The entire competition was a great experience, Diesel and I learned a lot, and look forward to entering another competition in the future, in hopes on improving our results.

All Photos Credit:

See their story on the Canadian Police Canine Association Trails here

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