May 24th, 2024

Graduation, retirement day for K9 unit

By Lethbridge Herald on September 14, 2020.

Police Service Dog Zap and Const. Spencer Hodgson demonstrate agility through the obstacles following his K9 graduation Monday at the Lethbridge Police Range. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
The Lethbridge Police Service has welcomed one four-legged, graduating friend to the ranks wished another member of the K9 unit a doggone good retirement.
In a special ceremony Monday afternoon at the Lethbridge Police Range, the LPS introduced police service dog Zap — pronounced “Zep” due to his Dutch heritage — and wished PSD Ymos a happy retirement following eight years of service to the K9 unit.
Zap and his handler, Const. Spencer Hodgson, completed 20 weeks of training that included tracking, obedience, agility, building searches, compound/area searches, evidence searches and criminal apprehension. He now joins the current K9 members PSD Arco/Const. James Demone, PSD Myke/Const. Braylon Hyggen and PSD Robby/Const. Andrew Firby.
“He came from Netherlands and when we first got him he got shipped over to Boston and from Boston he was sent to Spokane,” said Hodgson. “So it’s been just a year since we went and picked him up in Spokane, Sept. 13. The first day he got to come home with me was Sept. 17 and he’s been there ever since. So he has definitely become a part of our family and our neighbours love to have him around, which is a plus to have.”
As Zap heads into his career, Monday’s ceremony was also about celebrating the eight-year career of Ymos as the Belgian Malinois who turned 10 on Canada Day settles into civilian life as a family pet.
“So he’ll live out his life with me,” said Ymos’ handler Sgt. Rick Semenuik, who also oversees the Training Unit.
The 30th police dog to join the LPS K9 Unit, Zap’s strength is tracking, said Hodgson.
“Early on in our career we’ve already had about 10 catches and that was within the first two months. That was a big positive for me. When we talk about how we’ve grown as a team, that was definitely a big one, seeing how well he did and it just made me a lot more confident in his abilities as well going forward.”
Zap’s tracking ability comes in handy in a break-and-enter situation, for example.
“As long as nobody has got out and disturbed where that person left from we can bring him out and pick up a scent,” said Hodgson. “He’ll pick up the scent from whoever left and we’ll track. His nose goes down to the ground and when he starts to track his shoulders hunch forward and he starts digging and it’s basically taking me for a ride. There are things I have to watch for when he’s tracking. But he’ll pick up the scent and get us to the person that left as long as we have a good starting point.”
Ymos has caught many criminals over his career, but Semenuik recalled his partner sniffing out an engagement and wedding ring as a fond memory.
“People committing crimes is more of a common thing we deal with, whereas a wedding ring and an engagement ring is kind of an out-of-the-ordinary situation,” he said. “Obviously if you lose your wedding ring or engagement ring it’s pretty traumatic and to help them find it will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.”
Ymos started training with Semenuik in December 2011 with the duo officially done on the street last December.
“Honestly, it’s hard to describe,” said Semenuik of the bond between an officer and his dog. “I have kids and I’ve spent more time with that dog than any of my family. They are with you 24/7. You go camping, they’re going with you. You go on a trip somewhere, they’re going with you. In Lethbridge some units have partners, but for the most part you’re not working in a vehicle with a partner. So in K9 your partner is riding with you all the time, every minute you’re on shift he’s in the vehicle with you and every call you go to, he’s with you. That bond you form, I don’t know if you can find tighter bond than that.”
As for Ymos making the shift to retired life, that will be a work in progress.
“He’s still very excitable,” said Semenuik. “Every time we go out he thinks we’re going to do something. When we got here today it was his first time at the range in a quite a few months so he was very jacked and very excited. He thought we were going back to work and going to do something. He’s still very high-drive and high-tempo. He hasn’t quite relaxed too much yet.”
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