Story and photos by Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
Kindergarten students at White Rock Elementary School in Rancho Cordova were recently treated to a demonstration of two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation K-9 handlers and their four-legged partners.
Correctional Officer Macaria Orgazan and her K-9 partner Blue, with California State Prison, Solano, were joined by San Quentin State Prison Correctional Officer Avalino Ramirez and K-9 partner Echo.
Blue, a Dutch shepherd, is an active alert dog. As a demonstration, Officer Orgazan hid something in a box. The students watched in awe as the dog ran to the box and began scratching and barking.
“He loves to play tug of war after (finding something),” Officer Orgazan laughed. “I reward him for doing a good job. He finds the bad stuff.”
Officer Ramirez also hid something in the box. Echo, a labrador, sat and stared at the box to indicate he also found something.
“This is the difference,” Officer Ramirez said. “Echo will sit and stare to alert me.”
Students were full of questions and observations.
“Do they eat?” asked one kindergarten student.
“I feed Blue about once a day,” Officer Orgazan said.
“How do they get to be police dogs?” another student asked.
Officer Orgazan explained both the handler and the dog have to go to school and when the dog graduates, he gets a badge as well and is considered an officer. They return to school twice each month for additional training.
“The dogs go through an eight-week academy. As handlers, we learn their signs and the dogs learn the odors of the bad stuff,” said Officer Ramirez.
Kindergarten teacher Jessica Waugh was grateful for the time the CDCR K-9 teams took out of their busy day to come to the school.
“In this community, it’s good to see law enforcement in a positive light,” Waugh said. “A lot of times the students think of the police in a bad way.”
Officer Ramirez said it’s important to connect with kids when they are young.
“It’s educational for the kids so certain phrases we refrain from using,” he said. “It’s important just to bring awareness there is good and bad and good prevails.”
After the presentation, each class carefully pet Echo and received a sticker from Officer Orgazan. In addition to the sticker, the officer also gave each child a high-five.
Read more about CDCR K-9 teams:
CSP-Solano team wins a top honor at K-9 trials, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/06/csp-solano-team-wins-a-top-honor-at-defenders-k-9-trials/
Mule Creek State Prison K-9 unit takes part in Western States competition, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/07/mcsp-k-9-unit-takes-part-in-western-states-competition/
Smelling out trouble – top CDCR K-9 teams put bite on contraband, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2014/04/smelling-out-troube-top-cdcr-k-9-teams-put-bite-on-contraband/
A Day in the Life of a K-9 officer team, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2013/09/day-in-the-life-of-a-k-9-officer-team/