You walk into the kitchen and smell chocolate cookies baking, but your dog can smell and distinguish all of the ingredients: sugar, butter, flour, eggs, chocolate chips, etc.
“There’s no piece of modern technology that can replicate a dog’s sense of smell,” says Deputy Kyle Sheek of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheek was extolling the amazing olfactory capabilities of canines on Wednesday as he demonstrated the skills of his K9 partner, Iggy, in searching for and locating firearms and ammunition.
Iggy, who turns 3 on March 1, is OCSD’s first gun-detecting dog trained to assist deputies in evidence recovery, article searches, and the execution of search warrants, among other law enforcement duties.
Iggy, a male German shepherd born in Germany, also is the first German shepherd K9 in the OCSD’s Patrol Division in two decades (the other K9s all are Belgian malinois, with the exception of one Dutch shepherd).
In a demonstration at the OCSD’s Tactical Training Center in Orange on Feb. 5, Sheek took Iggy through two gun-detection scenarios and one in which he apprehended a deputy posing as a bad guy while wearing a bite suit.
Iggy, who weighs 100 pounds, latched onto the deputy’s left arm before Sheek ordered him to stand down.
But the demo was all about showcasing Iggy’s remarkable skills to sniff out hidden handguns and related items.
All of the OCSD’s nine K9s assigned to patrol are trained in suspect apprehension, said Sgt. Jason Ivins, who supervises those K9s and their handlers. (Overall, the OCSD has 43 K9s, which includes dogs that search for narcotics, cadaver-searching dogs, and dogs trained to sniff out explosives.)
In addition to suspect apprehension, K9 specialists like Iggy are “dual purpose” dogs — in Iggy’s case, he underwent weeks of training to be able to detect the smell of gun powder, bullets, casings, and guns.
Sheek, a K9 handler for four years who is in his 14th year as a deputy, previously was assigned to K9 Arco, who died in November 2019.
“It’s a complete honor, and I’m up to the task,” Sheek said of being the OCSD’s first handler of a gun-detecting K9.
The OCSD K9 unit was established in 1982. Until now, the agency has relied on other area law enforcement agencies, including police departments at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach, the Anaheim PD, and the Orange PD, when calls required a gun-detecting K9, Ivins said.
Iggy started going out on calls in March 2019. In November 2019, he became certified by the California Narcotic Officers’ Association as a gun-detecting dog.
In 2019, Iggy went on a total of 68 deployments, Ivins said.
He conducted 51 subject searches, was deployed once on a SWAT call, he forced 36 suspects to give up, and he located two weapons during a felony car stop and one handgun during a search of a suspect, Ivins said.
Overall last year, OCSD patrol K9s went on 572 deployments. Of those, 347 suspects gave up when they were told a K9 was present. There were a total of 21 apprehensions.
Iggy, who works four days a week, is rewarded with a chew when he “alerts” on a weapon.
“It’s a big game of hide and seek,” Ivins said.
He lies down when he finds a gun. Sheek noted that Iggy doesn’t try to bite a gun when he finds one because it could go off if loaded and injure or kill him.
On one notable call last May, Iggy assisted the APD in a search for a man suspected of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.
Officers used a less-lethal shotgun trying to take down the fleeing suspect, but he managed to keep running. Iggy gave chase and was able to apprehend him.
On another call, Iggy was able to find a gun in a case that hadn’t been fired in 30 years, Sheek said.
Iggy and Sheek also participated in many demonstrations in 2019, including one before Cal State Long Beach students enrolled in a criminal justice program.
Iggy’s original name was Ignatz, the German form if Ignatius.
One of Sheek’s two daughters, Peyton, 3, helped rename him.
“Biggie,” she suggested.
Sheek tweaked the name to “Iggy,” and a standout police K9 was born.
To follow Iggy on Instagram, visit @OCSDK9_904K