Red Wing K-9 becomes certified drug dog, gets new handlerJust a few days ago, the Red Wing Police Department’s K-9 became a certified drug dog — a new addition to his resume.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Just a few days ago, the Red Wing Police Department’s K-9 became a certified drug dog — a new addition to his resume.
Over the past several weeks, 3-year-old Maverick has taken part in Narcotics Detection School where he’s learned to sniff out marijuana, crack cocaine, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin.
Through a process called imprinting, the dogs at the school undergo repetitive training that teaches them to search buildings and vehicles for certain scents and then park themselves wherever they find them.
“Eventually every time they smell that odor, they sit,” K-9 handler Jeff Burbank explained.
Prior to the drug detection classes, Maverick was used to search buildings, track people and apprehend suspects. The German shepherd hasn’t forgotten those skills, but a recent change in handlers means he won’t be using them again until the middle of next year.
“He’s already trained in that, but I’m not,” Burbank said.
Burbank has been with the Red Wing Police Department since 2009 but only recently became part of the K-9 unit last month after officer Brian Metling resigned as handler.
With the position open and applications being taken, Burbank jumped at the chance to team up with a dog.
“I used to watch the St. Paul K-9 unit at the State Fair and it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I never thought I would have the opportunity because there’s only one K-9 and I’m kind of new.”
Still, he managed to secure the spot and has spent the past month at drug training in St. Paul with Maverick. Typically new K-9 handlers start by going through a 12-week basic training program, but those classes are only available once a year and don’t start until March.
“So I’m doing it nontraditionally,” Burbank said.
That’s why Maverick will be used as a single-purpose, drug-sniffing dog for the time being. Eventually he and Burbank will go through regular training and the dog’s basic skills will come back into play for the Red Wing Police Department.
Until then, Burbank is adjusting to life as part of the K-9 unit. He said he heard from other people that the job is a lot to take on, but it still turned out to be more than he expected.
“Once you’re actually doing it, it literally consumes most of your time,” Burbank said.
Aside from attending eight hours of training each weekday, being the K-9 handler means taking care of Maverick’s kennel, maintaining the dog’s space in the squad car and leaving time for regular exercise.
“I run him a mile-and-a-half every day otherwise he’s just through the roof,” Burbank said.
Additionally, Burbank put in a lot of work preparing Maverick’s new home before the dog came to live with him, including the construction of a wooden fence around the backyard so the dog can wander freely.
Despite the amount of effort involved, Burbank said everything he’s done has been worthwhile.
“A dog is a tool that’s invaluable.”