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K-9 Irma (and her nose) ready for some action

by: RAY PITZ - Officer Corey Jentzsch poses with Irma, a Belgian Malinois that the department recently acquired to replace Azi.After almost a year without a police K-9 tracking dog, the Sherwood Police Department is back at full capacity.

During a February Sherwood City Council meeting, Irma, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, officially received her credentials — a nice shiny badge akin to that worn by her handler, Officer Corey Jentzsch.

Sniffing the carpet frantically, the 45-pound dog, which Jentzsch describes as “very high energy,” made it clear she was more than ready for duty. In fact, Irma already has several successful trackings (and a capture) under her collar so to speak.

Both Irma and Jentzsch have undergone more than 400 hours of initial training in obedience, searching, protection, basic handling skills and care for the animal.

Originally from Germany, and most recently an employee for a police agency in California, Irma replaces Azi, the purebred German shepherd K-9 who was returned to his vendor last spring following incidents where he bit an officer’s arm so severely that he needed a trip to the emergency room and stitches. Prior to that, Azi had nipped Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth in the nose in an incident that also required a several stitches.

“Irma is an absolutely phenomenal dog for searching for articles,” Capt. Mark Daniel told City Council members during the Feb. 5 meeting. “She is truly interested in everything related to her nose.”

Daniel, himself a state K-9 trainer and former handler, explained that Imra’s breed was “bred to protect kingdoms and the castles.”

Already, Irma has proved her mettle.

“She had her first ‘capture’ a few weeks ago,” said Jentzsch. “Capture means she didn’t bite, she found the guy.”

Called out by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department’s Gang Team to North Plains, Irma quickly got to work. After announcing twice that he had a police K-9 dog with him and getting no response, Jentzsch and Irma went looking for the suspect, walking slowly past huge piles of wood.

As they passed one, Irma’s head “snaps to the right” and started barking, said Jentzsch. Sure enough, the suspect was wedged between two piles of wood and by the expression on his face it was evident he wasn’t going to put up a fight. Jentzsch later learned that the man had previously been bitten by a police dog and had no intention of repeating the incident.

At the moment, Irma will work as a tracking dog, and recently proved her knack for searching for articles after recovering a knife from a suspect during a Hillsboro search.

Certified as a California narcotics dog, a job she is expected to be certified for in Oregon, Irma also has displayed her olfactory acumen by finding the location of a bag of marijuana by barking on the exact side of a police van where an evidence technician had stashed the substance.

Meanwhile, the cost of Irma’s training continues through the same anonymous donor who paid for Azi’s training which could have cost as much as $10,000 to get her up to speed, according to police officials. Since Azi’s performance was guaranteed, there have only been incidentals in costs (the chief, Daniel and Jentzsch all traveled to California to meet Irma to make sure she was the right dog for Sherwood), Groth has said.

Groth said an impressed lead dog trainer told him that “This dog is money” after seeing Irma’s performance.

So far, Jentzsch has found that Irma cannot be compared to Azi.

“It’s a completely different dog, it’s a different breed,” Jentzsch said about the difference between his new police dog and the former one. “She loves to find things.”

Jentzsch said Irma’s size has also been beneficial, evident when he has had to pick her up to get her across a blackberry bush or two, a feat that was extremely difficult with Azi, who was twice Irma’s weight. The canine can also make it into tinier spaces such as attics and crawl spaces during searches.

While Irma also likes to play, Jentzsch pointed out, “She’s still a working dog; she’s not a pet.”

Jentzsch, who has worked for the Sherwood Police Department since 1999, said he’s glad to have Irma onboard.

“She’s a great dog,” he said. “This is the dog for this city.”



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