K-9 with a passion for police work | SierraSun.com

K-9 with a passion for police work

Christina Nelson

Photo by Christina Nelson.Starr shows off at the CHP truck inspection station this week.

Like most new graduates jumping into a career, Starr’s new job has its ups and downs.

He works irregular shifts, the pay isn’t quite what he was hoping for, he is always being trained and he constantly scavenges for food.

Although he seems to love his job, Starr, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, sometimes has off days as a bomb-sniffing dog for the California Highway Patrol at the inspection station on Interstate 80.

“Dogs have bad days just like people do. A dog could come out and not want to work,” said Colin Patrick, the CHP canine officer who trains and lives with Starr.

For every bomb-sniffing dog in the state of California, there are another 99 dogs that didn’t make the CHP’s final cut.

Some are too hyper, some lose interest and some just aren’t smart enough.

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“These dogs are tested prior to coming to our academy,” Patrick said. “There are 10 tests they have to pass. They go through 100 dogs, they get one.”

But Starr, a “seeing-eye reject,” has a relatively calm demeanor, never seems to lose interest in his job and thoroughly enjoys his toy reward after locating a possible explosive.

“Starr came out of the first class that highway patrol has ever trained,” Patrick said of Starr, one of eight bomb-sniffing CHP dogs statewide.

The dogs are just one of the nation’s responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and are a part of homeland security initiatives across the state and country.

“It’s not just terrorism from across the ocean. It’s here, domestic terrorism,” Patrick said.

“I was a little naive about some of the things going on,” said Lt. Dave Eckenrode. “It makes me feel a little better. There’s probably a lot of stuff going through [the inspection station] that we’re not catching.”

Last week CHP introduced Starr to other local law enforcement agencies and gave a quick demonstration of his skills. But during a lull in the action, Starr rolled on the ground and yawned, seeming less a part of the war on terrorism than just a friendly family pet.

Patrick and Starr work odd hours, sometime the day shift, sometimes the night shift, but that doesn’t mean work is Starr’s life.

Starr is Patrick’s dog and lives at home with him when they’re not working. They bonded while training together for nine weeks.

Although the CHP truck station has a small room set aside for Starr, the CHP staff seems quite comfortable with Starr wandering around the office.

“You can’t leave anything in the garbage,” said CHP officer Peter Christoffersen, referring to Starr’s tendency to eat any scrap of food left around.

And sure enough, when Starr wandered into the office his first stop was a wastebasket.