Cary’s Finest Sometimes Have Four Legs
and a Commanding Bark
By Cheryl Capaldo Traylor | Photo by Blaine Butler
Cary Police Officer Seth Everett starts his day early. Not only does he have to get himself ready, but he also has to make sure his partner is awake, fed, and ready to go. He doesn’t mind the extra effort; it’s one small part of being the handler in a team comprised of a human and a canine officer. He and Chase, a brindle German Shepherd from Holland, have worked together since 2013, and—except for tufts of fur left behind in the squad car—this team functions much like any pair of human officers would.
Cary’s K9 Force
Formed in 2005, Cary’s K9 unit has many purposes: tracking missing persons or fleeing suspects, searching for hidden evidence, detecting narcotics, and protecting citizens and police officers.
At 7 years old, Chase is the senior guy on Cary’s K9 force, and he is Everett’s third canine partner. In addition to Chase, Cary has two other four-legged police officers—Brackeen and Lemm—both named in honor of fallen officers. Cary’s trio of K9s are confident, alert, and hard-working. And like human officers, K9s are sworn in, take an oath, and receive a badge. They are also required to have annual certifications through a national certifying organization, the International Police Work Dog Association.
Selection and Training
Selecting a police dog is a serious process that may take a couple of months, although it can sometimes be done in a day. Cary has high selection criteria, and the two things Everett looks for in a dog are a great nose and a high drive. It is also important to see how the dogs react to different environments, such as slippery floors or stairs. He tested 36 dogs before he chose Chase.
The dog’s training starts as early as 12 months old, and the initial 14 weeks of in-house training is intense. Everett uses science-based training that is always evolving. Toys are used to motivate dogs to perform a task, and rarely is a correction needed. High praise is an important part of the K9s behavior training.
Police dogs can be trained to sniff out a wide variety of objects including cell phones, thumb drives, drugs, clothes, and bananas. Yes, bananas. Beagles at Miami International Airport are trained to sniff out fruit in accordance with strict agricultural laws. “As long as dogs have the drive, you can train them to do just about anything,” Everett says.
Continuous on-the-job training is a must to keep the dog’s abilities sharp. K9 programs that work together benefit citizens everywhere, so other departments come to Cary for weekly training classes led by Everett.
Chase in Action
Chase is a dual-purpose patrol dog with special training in tracking and narcotics sniffs, but he also helps out in other ways. “We do anything that any other officer might do,” Everett says. Chase might track a suspect to help solve a crime, but he also can track for missing people.
Everett says public appearances and demonstrations are among the most important aspects of Chase’s job. The other two Cary K9 teams—Brackeen and Officer Scott McInerny, and Lemm and Officer Justin Platz—also participate in demos. “We love showing the dogs and how they help the community,” Everett says. Last year, Chase met more than 6,000 residents during demos. Both kids and adults get to ask questions, and one of the most common is “Can I pet the dogs?” Put simply, the answer is “No.” K9s are on duty just like the human police officers working beside them (and we don’t pet those officers).
Everett and Chase work well together. However, there are a couple of challenges to having a canine partner. There’s the lack of usual human communication. Everett gives Chase’s commands in Dutch, the language used since training, and after working together for over five years, they’ve grown to understand each other well. Chase is also quite furry, so their patrol car can get a little dirty. That’s okay with Everett. “The positives outweigh everything else,” he says.
Would Everett ever want to go back to having a human partner? He laughs, but doesn’t answer. It’s obvious he’s happy with Chase. “I truly enjoy what I do. I like being a handler,” he says. “Chase and I get to help out, and that’s what we’re all about.”
Although Chase belongs to the Town of Cary, he goes home each day with Everett. “He is part of the family,” Everett says. When Chase is no longer a working dog, he’ll live out his retirement years with Everett’s family, and the transition from police dog to family pet will ensue. Asked about Chase’s most notable accomplishment as a K9, Everett has a hard time narrowing the list. “He’s done so many good things that I would be here talking about him for days,” he says. If Chase could talk, he might say the same thing about Everett.