Odin looked around with nervous excitement at the arena before him. The Sunday morning air was crisp. The obstacle course was set, a dummy laid limply on the ground, and the judges sat with pens poised above score sheets. He saw the gesture to begin his routine, and he did…on all four legs.
A German Shepherd who has been partners with police officer Greg Gray for one year, Odin is a K-9 dog for the West Jordan Police Department in Utah. Gray and Odin traveled to Las Vegas for the 23 annual Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 Trials that took place over the weekend.
Officers and their dogs came from all over the country to participate in the trials. Categories of competition included narcotic, bomb, area and building searches, as well as obedience, agility and handler protection.
Sunday’s trials were open to the public. Hundreds of people, many attending as families, sat in the seats of the Orleans Hotel & Casino events arena. Officers and 47 dogs competed in the morning’s obedience course, and more were to follow in the afternoon’s more aggressive trials.
“There are boxes of dog treats back here, help yourselves, everyone!” called an event worker.
“Um....for the dogs, not for you,” he added sheepishly to the officers gathered around.
Odin, meanwhile, was finishing his course. He was number 11 in the lineup and completed the obstacle course nearly-smoothly, running up the ladders, through the barrels, down the slides and over the jumps.
Gray used hand motions to instruct the dog until Odin got distracted and leapt over the wall to say hi to some by-standing officers.
Gray moved from hand motions to vocalized commands at that point, ones he later said were in German. Many police dogs are originally bred in Germany and Holland, he said, so they use terms the dogs are already familiar with. “Fuss” and “platz” for instance, are loose translations of the German words meaning “stay” and “down.”
After Odin refocused, the rest of his routine went well, the only hiccup being that he “really liked that slide enough to go on it twice,” said one commenting judge at the end of Odin’s performance.
Final scores weren’t in yet, but last year West Jordan’s police dogs placed second in obedience and narcotics, as well as fourth in building searches.
As the applause died down, Gray patted his chest and Odin jumped up with his front paws in what looked like a celebratory hug. Gray seemed happy with their run at the trial.
In fact, everyone was in good spirits.
Officer John Jenkins, who has been a Las Vegas police K-9 officer for almost 14 years, said he loves the atmosphere of the trials each year.
“The camaraderie, being able to see these guys from all over the country, is a lot of fun,” Jenkins said. He’s been attending the trials as long as he’s been in the unit. This year he competed with a Yellow Labrador named Scooby — though his fur really has a reddish tint to it, Jenkins said — in the explosives trials Saturday.
It’s fun competition, and all good-natured, Jenkins said.
And that seemed to be the case. The audience applauded and the officers offered each other encouragement when dogs took detours in the routine.
Many of the dogs had fun quirks while they performed, like Hunter with the Las Vegas police who tried to sneak toward the decoy man on the side of the arena by crawling on his stomach while his officer was turned the other way, like a game of red-light-green-light.
Or the North Las Vegas police dog who ran in happy circles around his officer every time he finished an obstacle in the course.
All were in good spirits during the morning, and the more aggressive dogs would have a chance to shine in the afternoon during the protection routines.
The trials were partially hosted by Friends for Las Vegas Police K-9s, a non-profit organization that helped the police department first start the trials in 1990.
Contact reporter Annalise Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0264.