The Westminster Police Department on March 22 introduced its K9, Dragon, to the public at the department’s first ever Coffee with a K9 event at Starbucks on Beach Boulevard.
Police K9s for decades have been an invaluable resource for keeping communities and officers safe. These four-legged crime fighters are put into action to help locate and apprehend crime suspects, find missing persons and sniff out narcotics, weapons, and explosives.
Westminster Police Officer Steve Booth, Dragon’s handler, came up with the idea for the informal meet-and-greet with Dragon to answer questions the public has regarding K9s.
“People always ask what kind of dog this is,” said Booth, while Dragon slurped on a “puppuccino,” a Starbucks cup filled with whipped crème. “They want to know if I take him home and how he is at home.”
Dragon is a 5-year-old, 70-pound Dutch Shepherd imported from Holland by Adlerhorst International, a K9 training facility in Jurupa Valley. Dragon had previously been used for breeding in Holland before being trained for police work, said Booth, who has been Dragon’s handler for about three years.
Yes, K9 handlers do take their K9s home, and yes, Dragon usually has a friendly demeanor when he’s not on the job, Booth said.
“He likes to sleep with my nine-year-old daughter,” Booth said.
But Dragon knows when it’s time to go to work and gets amped up as soon as he sees Booth getting ready for work.
“He sees me grab my boots from the other room, he starts going fast,” the officer said.
Westminster Police Department formerly had two K9s on the force, but after the retirement of Pako more than a year ago, Dragon is currently the agency’s lone K9.
Booth and Dragon train together about once a week, including a training session at Adlerhorst once a month. Dragon has been involved in numerous apprehensions and has located firearms in service to other agencies.
“At a recent call for service involving a restraining order violation and burglary suspect who was hiding in a house, Dragon was sent in to find the suspect after a search by officers came up empty. Dragon quickly found the suspect, who was armed with a knife, under a pile of clothes,” Booth said.
Many Starbucks patrons stopped to meet Dragon before going inside. Erik Gomez of Fountain Valley came by to meet Dragon after seeing the K9’s Instagram page.
“I have a dog that I train so I like to come out and meet other dogs,” said Gomez, who owns a Czech Shepherd.
Starbucks store manager Lori Rehnert said her store has hosted several Coffee with a Cop events and welcomed the opportunity to host Coffee with a K9.
“We work closely with the Westminster Police Department,” Rehnert said. “They are our customers as well. We like to support them any way we can. We really want to make sure that awareness is brought out for why they are so important.”