St. Charles Parish’s K-9 unit putting the bite in crime

A highly regarded and decorated St. Charles Parish officer sits in wait for his next assignment, and the stakes could once again be high. Nullifying a bomb threat, perhaps, or maybe apprehending a dangerous criminal on the run.

One thing is for sure, though: his fellow officers trust he’ll get the job done — even if he’s not “the man” to get it done.

Meet Rossi, a 9-year old German Sheppard who serves as a dual purpose explosive detection and patrol dog on the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 patrol unit. The Sheriff’s Office has worked with him since he was 18 months old, and he is one of a team of five canines who have helped thwart countless crimes, both locally and, sometimes, out of parish lines.

Lt. Jason Guidry, commander of the office’s K-9 unit, said that Rossi is called into duty when serious problems must be taken care of.

“Narcotics dogs are used a lot more than he is,” Guidry said. “Pretty much every day. This is the guy, ideally, we really don’t want to use. When we have to start talking about people looking for bombs, it’s never good. We use him whenever we have building searches or need to track somebody. He’s really good at that.”

As far as apprehensions go, Guidry said Rossi has brought dozens of lawbreakers to justice.

“Sometimes, when we’re dealing with serious felonies, people run off into the woods,” Guidry said. “Or there are times when there’s a burglary and someone is maybe still inside. We send him in. He’ll clear the building.”

On those occasions, escape from Rossi is highly unlikely.“I don’t know anyone who can outrun a dog,” Guidry said.. “I’ve seen a couple try, but the average person isn’t going to get far. His nose, hearing and sight are so much better than ours. You watch him when you’re tracking somebody and he’ll hear things and you see his ears start twitching. He’ll hear things you never hear. And 95 percent of the time, he’ll get the job done without biting the person. Most people, when they see or hear him, they give up. It’s pretty amazing, really.”

Guidry called the K-9 unit “an invaluable tool” as a whole to the department. Freckles, 9, is a male lab breed mix who is an expert in narcotics and cadaver detection. Guidry said Freckles is a “rescue dog;” for example, if a child were lost, he can track the boy or girl and will stay with them and bark until being found.

Sunna, 6, a Belgian Malinois,  is a narcotics detection and patrol K-9. Sierra, 5, is a female German Shepard narcotics detection K-9, while Buddy, 8, is a male Belgian Malinois narcotics detection and patrol K-9 who is also a part of the Special Response Team.

“They’re so much benefit to our department,” Guidry said. “When you see the amount of drugs and money they take off the streets, it’s phenomenal.”

Rossi is a rarity, the department’s only bomb dog — and not every parish has one of those. Each Tuesday, trainers plant out explosives for him to find.

“He can search buildings, open fields, vehicles, everything imaginable, basically,” he said.

While the stereotype of a police dog is to be snarling and angry, Guidry said that it’s a major misconception.

“Rossi is a very, very tough dog, but he’s also sociable and friendly. He plays with my kids,” Guidry said, showing a picture of his young son with Rossi and Sunna. “We were just in the hall over there and he had five of the secretaries playing with him. He’s a very good dog.

“He comes home with me. He’s part of our family. He has to be. Any police dog has to know their place in a family. People think police dogs are vicious, like, ‘they’re going to eat me.’ They’re not vicious at all. They have to be a sociable animal. Dogs naturally are pack animals. If you take a dog and don’t let him socialize, you make him a lone wolf and he’s miserable. So the more they socialize, the better they work, in my opinion.”

Guidry trains and takes care of the dogs on a daily basis, and said it’s extremely rewarding.

“No matter what you do, they’re there with you,” he said. “They will never let you down. They don’t talk back to you. They’ll get mad for a second and forget about it. Just that loyalty … I have the perfect job. I get to play with dogs all day long. It’s definitely pretty awesome.”


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