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Dog day afternoon

Citizens will get a chance to see Beaverton's K-9 Unit in action
by: File photo Officer Ken Magnus and his K-9 partner Jago will be at the Party on Saturday.

A suspect is holed up in the back bedroom of a suburban home, crouched behind a dresser. He hears sirens blaring outside, then uniformed officers enter the house.

Footsteps come and go, and the burglar begins to relax, thinking he's escaped detection.

Suddenly, a German shepherd bursts into the room and begins to bark, signaling the officers to return. The suspect is cornered and apprehended.

Crime solved.

Four of the Beaverton Police Department's five patrol dogs will have a chance to reenact a similar scenario during Party in the Park's K-9 Unit demonstration Saturday. Located on soccer field No. 1, the demo is slated for 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

'We'll have one or two 'suspects' hiding in a room of a three-sided house,' said Mike Janin, superintendent of security operations at Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District. 'The dogs will demonstrate how they find a suspect in your house, and the crowd can see how it's done.'

In other words, it's an opportunity for the dogs, a key part of the police department's crime fighting force, to show off their skill set.

'The mock-up house is a new feature of our demonstration this year,' noted Sgt. Mark Hevland, who's been with the local police department for 13 years. 'The 'house' will be open to the audience, and they'll be able to see the 'suspect' hiding there.'

Over the last 12 months, the police department's patrol dogs - Barak, Jago, Alex and Enzo - have located 74 people, including suspected criminals, said Hevland, the K-9 Unit's team supervisor. They've also found 38 different articles, from evidence to missing property, by using their superior sense of smell.

The lone narcotics detection dog, Kahz, has located drugs 269 times, Hevland added.

Most recently, on July 7, a dog-and-officer team located two suspects in a Tigard robbery.

'Our dogs are well-trained tools,' Hevland said. 'We think bringing them out into the public helps dispel the myth that police dogs are always aggressive and sometimes vicious.'

Rather, the Beaverton K-9 Unit's dogs, all of whom have completed 400 hours of a state-certified training program put on by the Oregon Police Canine Association, are motivated by something simple.

'They're hot to do anything for a toy,' Hevland said simply.

Training teams

Each of the department's dogs is assigned to a police officer, who takes the animal home each night and feeds, shelters and plays with it. Human and canine establish a strong bond that keeps the dog interested in doing what his master commands.

Enzo, the department's most recent trainee, was certified in December. His handler is Officer Rob Wolfe. Barak's partner is Officer Mike Bewersdorff; Jago's is Officer Ken Magnus; Alex's is Officer Steve Anderson; and Kahz's is Officer Tony Bastinelli.

Only Alex won't make it to Party in the Park. He'll miss the fastest dog competition, as well as obedience and agility exercises the officers will ask their canines to perform.

Rigorous stuff

While party-goers will undoubtedly be impressed with the dogs' amazing tricks, their handlers know they didn't learn them by accident.

'The Oregon Police Canine Association has established a set of tasks the dogs have to pass,' said Hevland, a trainer for the OPCA. 'It's pretty rigorous stuff.'

Adults and children alike enjoy getting up close and personal with the dogs once the show is over. They can pet the dogs and ask their handlers questions about their training and care.

'Seeing the dogs in action gives people a goal to work on with their own dogs,' noted Hevland, who isn't surprised that the K-9 Unit demonstration has been a hallmark of Party in the Park for years.

'People love dogs,' said Hevland. 'Dogs can do things we can't duplicate any other way. I think people are amazed at the things they can do.

'They'll get to see firsthand the value of a police dog and what they can do for the city.'

It's time to Party in the Park

The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District invites the community to its Party in the Park. The community event takes place Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Howard Terpenning Recreation Complex, 158th Avenue and Walker Road.

As always, admission is free for a wide array of entertainment and recreation, including the family triathlon, The Classic at T-Hills car show and the Beaverton International Celebration.

Other activities include giant, inflatable play structures, climbing walls, arts and crafts, face painting and the popular K-9 Unit demonstration by the Beaverton Police Department. There will also be free drop-in swimming and sports activities; appearances by the district's Rec Mobile and Nature Mobile; food and beverages for sale; and music. Visit www.thprd.org for a full schedule of Saturday's events.