MODESTO, CA - Canine units from law enforcement agences across northern California searched for drugs as part of a K9 competition held in Modesto Friday.
The canines searched in and around staged police vehicles at the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office regional training center on the 3800 block of Cornucopia Way.
"It's a game to them. They've learned that if they find a certain odor -- a certain scent -- that what comes next is a toy reward and the handler and he get to play together," said Ron Cloward, who is president of the Western States Police Canine Association.
The narcotics competition was held nearly eight hours after Sacramento police dog "Bodie" was shot during a suspect chase.
"I was extremely upset when I first heard about it because I know the bond between a handler and a dog and when you think of your partner getting hurt like that, especially getting shot in the line of duty, it's like having another officer stand alongside you," said Cloward.
Cloward is retired from the Modesto Police Department's canine unit, but continues to work with police dogs through the Association.
On Friday night, Cloward tested the police dogs on teamwork, their drive and desire, the handler's overall control, and scent.
"When you take a (canine) dog into McDonalds -- you go in through the door --you might smell the hamburgers or the french fries, but the dogs smell the hamburger, the french fries, the oil they're cooking in, the mustard, the ketchup, the pickles, the onions -- all those ingredients. Their ability to smell things is just amazing," said Cloward.
The dogs can often do the work of officers in half the time, but their jobs don't come without risk, as seen in Sacramento on Friday.
"As a handler you always know your dog's there for the purpose of maybe taking a bullet or protecting you or protecting a fellow officer and so you know that going into it -- you don't expect it, just like we --most of the time -- never expect one of our own to get injured either but you know it can happen," said Cloward.