- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - Rescued from the streets … picking up work in law enforcement … finding time to be a beloved member of the family. Yes. Gypsy, a Labrador-mix, has come a long way in the 3 1/2 years she’s lived with Officer Dustin Hill of the Wahpeton Police Department.

That hard work paid off, with Gypsy earning the Top Dog award after her recent training at Camp Ripley in Morrison County, Minnesota, the Wahpeton Daily News (https://bit.ly/1TUPPpg ) reported.

“The first thing that we do is an inside narcotics hide,” Hill told the Wahpeton City Council during their Monday, May 16 meeting. “There’s an approximately 800-square-foot house and they put two different hides in two different rooms. You have to locate the hides in a certain amount of time.”

Hill said Gypsy found her first hidden narcotics in approximately under a minute and her second hidden narcotics in under 19 seconds.

From there, Gypsy was taken to three vehicles, where she had to determine which two out of the three had narcotics in them. As if that weren’t enough, she was also expected to determine the narcotics’ location within a one-foot margin of error.

“Then they have advanced narcotics detection, where they take one vehicle and you have to determine where the narcotics are hidden and how much are in this one vehicle,” Hill continued. “Gypsy did particularly well in that one. She wanted to tear the front bumper off the car.”

Other areas Gypsy was tested on included tracking. The exercise simulated a person running away from a crime scene and throwing evidence. Hill is especially proud of Gypsy’s improvement in the evidence recovery exercise. This year, she was required to find a firearm, without benefit of smell, in a woodsy search area.

“They grade you on overall detection, how you handle your dog … it was a great learning experience. We go every year,” Hill said. “Thank you for sending me and allowing me to go.”

Chief Scott Thorsteinson of the Wahpeton Police Department told the council he is pleased for both Hill and Gypsy. He singled out Hill’s ranking as a DRE, or a drug recognition expert. His full title is K-9 DRE officer, with special indication on his uniform.

“There’s not many (DRE officers) in the state of North Dakota,” Thorsteinson said. “Officer Lisa Page is also a drug recognition expert. That gives us advantages over a great many departments in the state when it comes to trying to stay on top of impaired drivers not under the influence of alcohol. The K-9 is an extremely valuable tool in our fight in trying to keep this a safe community.”

A few days later, The Daily News caught up with Hill and Gypsy while she was training at Wahpeton High School. During that time, students and staff performed a lockdown drill as Hill and Gypsy searched lockers and automobiles throughout the school grounds. Such drills serve as a preventative measure for students bringing narcotics onto school property, principal Ned Clooten said.

“And I don’t want to raise my kids around that,” Hill added.

Hill hopes that Gypsy’s accomplishments remind potential dog owners of the importance in giving rescued animals love and a home.

“We want people to know all dogs have worth,” he said.

And Gypsy doesn’t spend all of her life at work or in training. Off the job, she lives with Hill, his wife, Officer Lisa Page, and their family.

“I’ll walk her and do play, puppy things with her,” he said. “She’s not always working, she gets to be a dog. And my wife, Lisa, she helps with the dog. And my little girl, Cadence, she helps.”

Over the years, the Twin Towns Area has had its share of Top Dog honorees and contenders. In 2013 and 2011, Kino, a Labrador member of the Breckenridge Police Department, was named Top Dog. Before Gypsy, Hill raised and worked with Stryker, another Labrador who scored high marks in tracking and evidence recovery in 2010.


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, https://www.wahpetondailynews.com

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