A Santa Maria Police Department dog is back on the job after his tail was partially amputated following the arrest of a parolee who allegedly ran over the K-9's tail with his car earlier this month.
Rowdi, an almost 7-year-old German shepherd who is trained as a drug detection and apprehension dog, underwent surgery to remove an 8- to 10-inch section of his tail after the Feb. 4 arrest in the 1000 block of Balboa Drive, according to Officer Andres Lopez, Rowdi's handler.
The pooch was taken off the force for several days to recover, while the suspect, 26-year-old Jorge Lua, was arrested and booked into jail on several violations including harming a police dog and felony vandalism.
Since joining the department six years ago, Rowdi has apprehended close to 100 suspects, Lopez estimated.
Recently, the K-9 sniffed out a hidden compartment inside a BMW containing 135 baggies of cocaine and methamphetamine during a Jan. 19 traffic stop.
When it comes to sniffing out narcotics, Rowdi is a passive alert dog, meaning he'll sit or stand and remain calm when the scent of narcotics is detected, according to Lopez, whose job is to observe his K-9 for any physiological changes that indicate an alert.
The K-9 also apprehended a police pursuit suspect Jan. 27 as he tried to carjack a motorist at the intersection of Orcutt Road and Union Valley Parkway.
A police dog conducting a search of a vehicle following a DUI arrest on Sunday night allegedly revealed thousands of dollars worth of drugs inside a hidden compartment, a Santa Maria Police spokesman said.
Those are only two examples of the countless number of calls Rowdi has responded to during his time on the force, Lopez said, adding that the K-9's contribution goes far beyond finding drugs and catching bad guys.
"Dogs are a beneficial tool in preventing uses of force," Lopez said. "The mere presence of a dog helps de-escalate situations and makes our jobs easier as officers."
The Santa Maria Police Department acquired Rowdi from a breeder in the Santa Ynez Valley when he was about a year old. Rowdi's sibling, Kopi, also serves with the department.
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Both Rowdi and Lopez have been on the force for approximately six years, although they've been paired together only three years.
Despite Rowdi having previous handler training, Lopez and the dog completed a 240-hour training course to certify as a team.
"He's the veteran, I'm the rookie," Lopez said.
Lopez and Rowdi aren't assigned to any specific unit but, instead, patrol the entire city as a crime-fighting team, assisting other officers as they see fit.
Upkeep of skills is fairly regular, as the pair spends several days each month training with other officers, including the SWAT Team, and going through real-world scenarios to build confidence.
Rowdi is also trained to listen to specific verbal commands, which are spoken in German, Lopez said.
The K-9's discipline is sharp as Lopez puts Rowdi through obedience training and detection work in their off-time.
Whereas most dogs are conditioned with treats, Lopez said Rowdi prefers his favorite toy, which is a thick black piece of rope looped through a green ball.
The bond between Rowdi and Lopez has grown tight because they're together close to 24 hours each day.
"Being with him everyday, you're with him more than your family," Lopez said. "I get to come to work and play with a dog. It's the best job ever."
Officer Lopez demonstrates commands with K9 Rowdi, a 6-year-old German shepherd trained in narcotics detection and apprehension; Rowdi’s tail was partially amputated after it was run over by a suspect during incident in early Feb. @SMPDHQ #santamariatimes pic.twitter.com/sbX2maZNkC— Dave Minsky (@daveminsky) February 19, 2020
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