June 20th, 2024

Doggone tough police work ahead for new canine officers

By Herald on September 21, 2021.

Const. Terry Fieguth and his new partner Zap run the agility and obedience course at the police training range during a ceremony Tuesday to induct the Lethbridge Police Service’s newest canine officers, Zap and Aron. Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski

Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald

Lethbridge Police Service held a special graduation for its two new canine officers on Tuesday, and said one last thank you to a canine officer who retired from the force after long service earlier this year.

The LPS welcomed canine officers Aron and Zap, and said farewell to Arco, who served 11 years on the force before his retirement in January of this year.

The change of guard at the canine level also singled a change of guard at the officer level as Const. James DeMone retired from his duties as a Canine Unit officer and assumed other duties in the force upon Arco’s retirement.

Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh acknowledged the importance and special dedication it takes to be a Canine Unit officer during his remarks on Tuesday.

“Police work is very challenging from all aspects,” he said. “But when we look at a Canine Unit it is not just a 12-hour shift that they work, and they go home. Our dog-handlers, the Canine Unit, this is a 24/ 7 operation for them. They have to maintain care for the dogs, train them, and make sure they are ready to hit the streets next time to keep everyone safe.”

Incoming Canine Unit officers Const. Steven Zwartbol, who becomes partner with Aron for his entire service to the LPS, and Const. Terry Fieguth, who partners with Zap, both acknowledged the enormity of their new responsibility ahead.

“To me, it’s the start of hopefully what’s a great partnership,” stated Zwartbol. “It is very humbling to realize how smart these dogs are. You have to create that bond right from the get-go where they trust you and you trust them. That comes over time. In addition it’s consistency, and how important it is for me to be consistent with him.”

Aron has already shown a special aptitude for evidence search, and Zwartbol demonstrated Aron’s impressive abilities on Tuesday after hiding three tiny items in a field which Aron quickly uncovered.

Meanwhile Zap has shown a strong aptitude for the more physical and social aspects of police work. Fieguth demonstrated this on Tuesday by running Zap through various obstacles off leash and calling the dog back to heel.

“It has been a long process and there has been frustrating days,” acknowledged Fieguth, who was excited to see his canine partner finally get his police badge on Tuesday after five months of intensive training, “but there have been a lot of great days when you get to show up to work with your best friend and do a job that can sometimes be thankless. But at the end of the day, he is always happy to see you and happy to work with you. So today is very special in terms of celebrating the hard work that we went through over the past few months.”

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