2 new dogs work to collar crime in city

Toledo police’s K-9s eager to help officers find narcotics

Toledo police Officer John Greenwood and his dog, Tanko, left, and Officer Brian Gaylord, with his dog, Wespe, conduct a drug sweep in a dorm at the Centralized Drug Testing Unit in Toledo.
Toledo police Officer John Greenwood and his dog, Tanko, left, and Officer Brian Gaylord, with his dog, Wespe, conduct a drug sweep in a dorm at the Centralized Drug Testing Unit in Toledo.

Two of the newest members of the Toledo Police Department are happy not to have desk jobs.

German shepherds Wespe and Tanko, the department’s only police dogs, couldn’t wait to start working. They literally jumped for joy at the beginning of their shifts on the street Wednesday.

The dogs are trained to detect narcotics, and they and their handlers spent an hour early Wednesday at Lucas County Common Pleas Court’s Rehabilitation and Correction Services Work Release Department, 1111 Madison Ave., casing the facility for drugs.

The building includes a minimum-security intermittent-detention facility operated by the court, rather than the sheriff’s office.

Offenders are released from the facility to attend work, search for employment, or for treatment purposes.

The facility has the capability to house up to 120 offenders and the two dogs eagerly searched the dormitory area where the residents sleep.

Their handlers, Officer John Greenwood and Officer Bryan Gaylord, gave the dogs commands in German, which is the language in which the dogs were trained, as they led them through the facility. The dogs eagerly smelled around beds, lockers, and other areas where the residents live and store their belongings.

They were joined by Buster, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois who is the K-9 dog for the Waterville Police Department and whose handler is Officer Joe Valvano.

The dogs are motivated by play, Officer Greenwood said.

Officers take them to areas where they think drugs are, and that is when the game of hide-and-seek starts for the dogs.

The dogs, who indicate they have smelled an illegal drug by scratching, identified several lockers and a cabinet as potential sources. Their handlers would call over another officer and dog for a second “sniff” when the first dog reacted.

Though nothing was found in the lockers during a subsequent search by humans, the mere presence of the dogs was positive, said Deborah Gasser, director of the facility.

“If nothing else,” she said, “this sends a message to the residents that narcotics are not tolerated in a correctional facility.”

Officer Greenwood handles Tanko, a handsome black German shepherd who is 17 months old and weighs 68 pounds. Tanko is Officer Greenwood’s third narcotics dog.

His previous dog, Bella, who is 12 years old, retired last summer because of bad hips and arthritis but continues to live with Officer Greenwood, who has worked with a police dog for 18 years.

Officer Gaylord handled Wespe, an 18-month-old brown German shepherd who weighs 63 pounds. Officer Gaylord, who has worked with a police dog for 11 years, had a previous dog named Danja, also 12, who retired last fall because of kidney problems but continues to live with him.

Wespe and Tanko have been with the department since late December and their noses already have been put to use hundreds of times, including in an annual sweep Feb. 20-22 when the department seized more than $89,000 worth of drugs.

The dogs, who were bred and trained in Germany and cost the city $8,000 each, are used in several ways, said Sgt. Joe Heffernan, police department spokesman.

They assist officers during the execution of search warrants at houses and vehicle stops where drugs are suspected. They also regularly survey the cars in the city’s tow lot and go to schools for presentations.

“This is what they live for,” Sergeant Heffernan said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.