Gunner, the Cannon Beach K-9, made a public appearance Tuesday, June 16, and demonstrated why he is so valuable to local law enforcement. The 2-year-old, 75-pound chocolate Labrador retriever is specially trained to sniff out methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, and in the future there are plans for him to receive training in search and rescue. With these skills, Gunner could prove an asset to police rescuing lost hikers, children or older adults who go missing.
The police department’s K-9 program aims to deter crime, locate lost or injured people, locate and seize illegal narcotics, and perform positive community relations through canine demonstrations, like this one.
A display of Gunner’s training came at the Cannon Beach firehouse, as the finale to the Cannon Beach police department event, “Burger With a Cop.” Chief Jason Schermerhorn personally manned the grill. Guests then strolled from Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals over to the firehouse, where in the driveway and secluded in a police vehicle, Gunner was being kept quiet, in preparation for the demo.
Chief Schermerhorn introduced Gunner’s handler, Officer Josh Gregory, while the dog remained offstage.
Gregory thanked the crowd and those who assisted with training and donations. Considered the Cannon Beach Police Department’s “ninth officer,” Gunner has been trained to identify and locate methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. Gregory spoke to the audience very specifically about Gunner’s training. “No marijuana,” he said. “We saw that coming down the pipeline just as everybody did. We said ‘Hey, we don’t need to do that.’ He’d get retired early.”
Gregory said Gunner has what is called a “passive alert.”
“Some dogs have an aggressive alert,” Gregory said. “They’ll go scratch at the odor, and usually the dog’s going to pick what he’s going to do. Gunner will go up to the odor, he’ll source the odor, and you can watch where he’ll bracket back and forth. He’s in odor, then he’s out of it. He stiffens up, he takes different breaths, becomes more active, and works toward the source. and then will very excitedly say, ‘Look, it’s right here, Dad!’
True to form, Gunner’s movements traced a path around the firehouse area, sniffing from place to place as he sought out the hidden cache of drugs, planted for the demonstration. As he zeroed in on his find — in less than a minute — Gunner was rewarded with his favorite doggie toy.
He executed this training not once, but twice.
While the toy is satisfying for Gunner, Gregory said it’s praise that really motivates his partner. “He wants to know he is accepted by me and he has made me happy; as any dog owner knows, I’ll just get down there and love on him, and he’s excited about that. That’s more his reward than the toy.”
Gunner was officially certified through the Pacific Northwest Police Detection Dog Association March 3. Gregory said the association focuses specifically on drug searches, rather than patrolling or tracking.
The learning never stops. Gregory continues to receive advancedtraining through the Pacific Northwest Police Detection Dog Association. “Maybe I’m having an issue with Gunner,” Gregory said. “Maybe he’s doing something unusual. I can call somebody on the phone and say, ‘Hey this is what my dog’s doing? Have you ever faced this situation?’ And they’ll be right on top of it. Someone’s going to have experienced that situation as well, and this is how they fixed it.”
Along with drug searches, Gunner will be trained for search and rescue operations. “If there’s a missing person, an Alzheimer’s patient or an overdue hiker at Ecola, we’re going to be a resource to find those people,” Gregory said. “That’s our future. First we want to get a good year of drug work together, get over some of those bumps, those hiccups that might occur.
Gregory said he anticipates five to seven years with Gunner “before he retires out and gets to be lazy all day.”
“I’m proud of this and I hope everyone else is,” Gregory said. “The interagency development that’s going on together all the way to Astoria is huge here. Everyone works so well together, and it’s great for the community. We work as a great team. I know what I’m doing and he knows what he’s doing. That is everything we want from our dog. He just makes me look good.”
The community was urged to keep the program properly funded. Implementing a police canine into the program can cost approximately $25,000, which covers the cost of the dog, training, veterinary care, food, housing, a police canine kit, handler uniform and patrol car modifications for the canine. All donations are tax deductible and are accepted at the Cannon Beach Police Department and Cannon Beach City Hall. For more information, contact Chief Jason Schermerhorn, Officer Devon Edwards, or Officer Josh Gregory at 503-436-2811.
At the close of the event, Gunner, his work over for the evening, interacted with the public. Everyone wanted to talk to him and pet him. Gunner is turning out not just to be aces at finding drugs, but is also fast becoming one of the city’s most inviting goodwill ambassadors.