- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Dogs are man’s best friend - something no one knows better than Danville police officer Hobie Daugherty.

“He stays with me 24/7. It really ends up being your best friend riding in the car with you. It’s not like your household pet. There’s a much deeper connection with the K-9, because they’re just with you all the time,” Daugherty said of his partner, K-9 Petty.

Daugherty, a native of Laurel County, joined Danville Police Department in 2012.

Being a police officer “was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to be a K-9 officer before I ever even got hired into law enforcement.”

“The first time K-9 came available, I jumped on it.”

It was October 2014 when Daugherty got his chance.

Not just any dog can become a police K-9. They are tested on a variety of things, one of the biggest being their prey drive. Petty, who is almost 3 now, was a German-born German shepherd who had been selected to become a working dog by Southern Coast K-9. He spent about six weeks being trained as a drug-sniffing dog, learning to detect marijuana, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamine. Petty also was trained to track, adding a bit more time to his training.

“He’s able to do more than what we can,” Daugherty said. “The way he smells - he smells in parts per million. We’re obviously not able to detect the odor like he’s able to.”

“We may get a whiff of marijuana, or something like that and that gives us an in into a vehicle, but when Petty sniffs a vehicle, he may smell all the others that we can’t. He’s able to help us get that foot in the door to get that narcotic and get it off the street.”

Daugherty continues to train Petty, to ensure the dog stays sharp on what he’s sniffing and won’t get distracted.

“Sometimes, I put out distractors, like a plastic bag, so he knows to differentiate between narcotics and plastic bags. He’s strictly on the odor of narcotics,” Daugherty said. “It’s all about what you can expose your dog to and make him a better dog.”

Not even other dogs distract Petty, Daugherty said proudly.

The ability to detect various types of smells is something all dogs have, Daugherty said.

“The best way to explain smell - when we go over to someone’s house and they are cooking a pot roast, we go in and we smell pot roast. A dog smells the beef, the cabbage, the carrots - they differentiate smells,” he said.

Daugherty spent about a month training with Petty, to help facilitate the lifelong bond between K-9 and officer.

“They like the dog to have one handler throughout his career. You become extremely attached,” Daugherty said. The duo have been certified by the Narcotics Dog Detector Association and are re-certified yearly.

Petty lives with Daugherty and his family to facilitate that bond and has become protective of the officer and his family.

That’s also where Petty “lets loose,” Daugherty said.

The two spend most of their shifts in the patrol car specially outfitted for the K-9. The patrol car functions as a mobile office for Daugherty. It has a special system that regulates the air conditioning and can override the rear windows, forcing them down and turning on two large fans if the temperature gets too warm.

Thanks to the K-9 Defender Fund, Daugherty was able to get a first aid kit, called a Buddy Bag, that prepares him for almost any emergency with the dog. Petty also has his own bulletproof vest and a special vest he carries when fulfilling his duties as a tracking dog.

Daugherty’s patrol car has a computer and printer that enable him to look up license information and print tickets.

The car also is equipped with cameras that kick on when the lights do. The moment the lights kick on, Petty goes on alert, too, watching his handler’s every move until Daugherty returns.

“You can see his demeanor change when the lights and sirens kick on. It’s like he says, ‘What’s going on, Dad? What are we doing,’” Daugherty said with a laugh, describing the dog that generally lounges in in the back while the car is in motion.

He and Petty spend a lot of their time on patrol.

“We generally patrol through areas and try to be as visible as we can - that in itself deters crime,” Daugherty said. They pay close attention to areas where cars travel frequently, among other things.

“There’s patterns with narcotic activity, and sometimes it’s random as well,” he said. It usually takes time to locate the areas of interest and be able to take action. “Some people think it’s an immediate thing - it takes time to develop a search warrant.”

Sometimes, Daugherty and Petty assist other police agencies that don’t have K-9s. While he’s generally a relaxed dog, Petty becomes focused while working.

“If I got him out right now, he’d start trying to find something to sniff. That’s the kind of dog he is - he’s very meticulous, and he loves working,” Daugherty said of his K-9 partner. “He’s an awesome dog.

“I love him to death. What’s better than to have a dog with you and do the job you love doing?”

___

Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger, http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews

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