The Wilson Police Department recently added two new furry members to its canine team. And while theyâ€™re only 18 months old, Argo and Eko have never been more ready to put their skills to work to keep residents safe and demonstrate theyâ€™re now a part of the Wilson community.
The German shepherds recently completed the required 14-week intensive training and passed with flying colors.
â€śThese dogs are ready to go,â€ť said Wilson Police Sgt. Russell Winstead, who is over the K-9 unit. Argo and Eko have been on the force for about two weeks now. With the two new additions, the department is back at five K-9s following two retirements. The other team members are Taz, Jaxx and Haso.
â€śThey provide a lot of different tools for us,â€ť Winstead said.
Argo and Eko are dual-purpose K-9s, which means they are used for patrol and narcotics detection. They are also trained in apprehension, tracking, article searches and handler protection as well.
â€śThey are multifaceted,â€ť Winstead said.
Argo and Eko will be formally certified in the upcoming months. And their handlers, K-9 officers Jeff Boykin and Justin Fulghum, said the dogs havenâ€™t missed a beat when it comes to learning all the required techniques.
â€śWhen they see something … their brain is literally painting them a picture we canâ€™t see,â€ť said Fulghum, who is Ekoâ€™s handler. â€śThey canâ€™t verbally speak it, but they translate the message to us through body language.â€ť
The K-9s used for law enforcement purposes are typically from overseas. Argo is from European Working Dogs in Hungary, while Eko was bred in Cherokee from a man who lived in the Netherlands for 20 years, officials said.
While Boykin and Fulghum have set training days with Argo and Eko twice a month, they are constantly working with the dogs throughout their shift each day and at home.
â€śYou get what you put in,â€ť said Boykin, who is Argoâ€™s handler and is also a certified K-9 trainer.
That work includes training throughout various places in the city of Wilson, including buildings, grass and wooded tracks. They also re-create scenarios.
â€śWe want the dogs trained and exposed to the environments they are going to work in,â€ť Winstead said. â€śThey put them through different tests here in the city.â€ť
Argo and Eko help police in identifying suspects, running tracks on breaking and entering suspects and performing narcotic searches in homes and cars. Theyâ€™re also valuable partners on foot patrol.
â€śTheir sense of smell is so much greater than ours,â€ť Fulghum said. â€śEverything they do is through their nose. We have 5 million cell receptors. Thatâ€™s just identifying odors. They have 350 million.â€ť
And as far as tracking, humans shed about 15 ounces of dead skin a day, Fulghum said.
â€śWherever youâ€™ve been, youâ€™re leaving an odor,â€ť he added.
There is an intricate process when it comes to selecting the right K-9 for the police department.
â€śWe go to a vendor and select the dog based on what we are looking for â€” socialization around us and other people, their work drive and energy to do a task,â€ť Boykin said.
He said police also want to see how hard the dogs will hunt for something they canâ€™t see by using their nose. They also put the K-9s through their paces in dark rooms, metal stairs, climbing stairs and slick floors.
â€śItâ€™s kind of like picking out a car,â€ť Winstead added. â€śAnd you want to pick the right vehicle for your agency. For our agency, we do a lot of community-oriented policing. So we pick dogs that are socially acceptable, able to go in to schools and do demonstrations throughout the community.â€ť
Boykin and Fulghum both said Argo and Eko are the perfect fit.
A PART OF THE FAMILY
Argo and Eko are not only a part of the police family now but also a member of Boykinâ€™s and Fulghumâ€™s families too.
â€śYou do spend a lot of time with these dogs, and you bond with them,â€ť Boykin said. â€śItâ€™s a very addicting job. Iâ€™m very passionate about it. I really enjoy it. The chief has given us a lot of opportunities to do this.â€ť
All five K-9s rotate on schedule each week. Argo worked four cases on a recent day alone.
Boykin said the bond between K-9 and handler is indescribable, and itâ€™s great knowing another team member has his back.
â€śIâ€™ve always got somebody with me,â€ť he said about his K-9. â€śI know that Iâ€™ve got somebody here before my backup gets here.â€ť