“Sullivan Field is named after Captain Dan Sullivan. He passed away from cancer a few years ago, he was one of the biggest proponents for the K-9 unit. He’s a former K-9 handler. And it just felt fitting to name it after him,” said Clovis PD’s Public Information Officer, Ty Wood.
The training location has an obstacle course and space for a variety of training scenarios. Complete with an office to escape the heat, and even a small outdoor dog pool that even has the ability to pump water in and out so that the water doesn’t get stagnant.
The K-9’s typically train once a week on Thursdays at the Sullivan Field for about 10 hours. On the day we visited, the officers and their dogs were training for felony traffic stops.
We were able to sit down with Officer Russell Moring and ask some questions about what it’s like to be a K-9 officer.
“I’ve been with Clovis PD total, almost eight years with the K-9 unit, about three and a half years,” said Moring.
Before being considered for the unit, Prospective K-9 officers are expected to prove themselves on the street as a patrol officer for anywhere from a few to several years.
In reference to what qualities are desirable for potential K-9 officer, Moring said, “Somebody who’s proactive and has a well-rounded resume.”
Prior to becoming a part of the unit, Officer Morning spent about a year coming out to the K-9 training days, “You have to show that you want to be out here [. . .] it’s something you have to be around.”
When asked about the transformation into a K-9 officer, Moring really emphasized the importance of time management, “There’s more of a chance of getting tied up on calls that involve really thorough investigations that can take a long time.”
Officer Moring’s dog, Dusty, has been a police dog for over three years now. Dusty is a 6 year-old German Shepherd from Slovakia.
Officers form strong working relationships with their K-9’s, but the dogs can’t be treated like a regular home pet. “You want their reward to be at work,” said Officer Moring, “That’s his playtime.”
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training recommends a minimum of 16 hours of K-9 training per month, but at Clovis PD, they can actually get 30-40 hours of K-9 training each month.
“We’re really lucky, because a lot of police agencies don’t get anywhere close to that,” said Officer Moring.
We asked the officer what people might not know or understand about what it’s like to be a K-9 officer:
“The job doesn’t stop. There’s other officers that can go home, when they clock out—they’re done,” said Moring, “Where I have a constant liability, a constant thought, in the forefront of my brain. He’s always a consideration. I can’t just go and leave for a two week vacation. Because my fourth kid is at home, and I have to make sure somebody is at home managing him. So, the job doesn’t stop. When you’re a K-9 handler, you are on 24/7.”
Clovis PD currently has five patrol K-9’s, which are either German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. The department also has three narcotic detection dogs, which are Springer Spaniels
It’s important to Clovis PD to select patrol dogs that “are trained to the point where they can go to a school carnival or a church gathering and lay on its back and be pet by 10 kids surrounding it—and then 20 minutes later being on a code three chase, trying to get a suspect,” said PIO Ty Wood.
After speaking with Officer Russell Moring, we spoke with Officer Dayna de Jong.
Officer de Jong has been with Clovis PD for about 12 years, and has been a K-9 officer for 6 years. Her dog’s name is Mika and he is a 7 year-old German Shepherd from Germany.
Officer de Jong has been in the department since before there was a K-9 unit, and she has seen a lot of change and growth since the start.
“Throughout the years, we’ve been blessed by a lot of love and support from our community and different donors who have made it possible to purchase additional dogs and add to our unit,” said de Jong.
When speaking about donations from our community, Officer de Jong said, “You name it; [we’ve received] food donations for our dogs. A lot of the majority of this field was donated. Yes, it is city land, but we had people come out here and donate electrical. The grass, the obstacles—I mean, this building that we’re sitting in—it’s all been through donations. So that’s been pretty special. To just see the backing of our community and the love that they have for our dogs.”
We asked Officer de Jong what she thought made for a good K-9 officer and she had this to say: “Someone who is well-rounded and has a good head on their shoulders. I would preferably like to see somebody who’s had a good 5 to 7 years on the street. Generally, about year five is when you really feel confident, and you’ve pretty much seen everything and done everything,”
Building on what PIO Ty Wood said in the previous interview along with Officer Moring, Officer de Jong further explained the importance of having a well-mannered dog: “For us, it was very important to be able to select dogs that just had a good overall demeanor. [Since] those dogs were purchased by donations from our community, we want to be able to take them out to community events and be able to allow the public to interact with our dogs. Because, ultimately—they gifted those dogs to us.”
Officer de Jong also spoke about family life with the dog. “All of our dogs are integrated with our families. All of us have our own children, and our children are allowed to interact with them,” said de Jong. “When he’s at work, he’s very much at work. But when he’s at home, he’s just like any other regular dog. And so that is a blessing, because it’ll translate really nicely to retirement.”
We asked the officer if the dogs usually go to live with their handler when the dog retires, or if it varies. “It doesn’t vary,” said de Jong, “They go home with the handler.”
It’s clear that handlers and their dogs have a strong bond that only other handlers might understand. “He ensures my safety and my partner’s safety,” said de Jong.
We are grateful as a community to have a K-9 unit like the one Clovis PD has built.