It may be the floppy ears, the warm sad eyes or the wrinkly but dignified face that makes everyone burst into “awws” upon meeting the K-9’s at Riverside Sheriff’s Bloodhound Unit.
It’s hard to resist these gentle giants who at first impression seem as if they’d rather be curled up on the couch napping than policing.
But don’t let their contagious cute factor fool you, these K-9’s are hardworking detectives who have a long blood line of being “working dogs” who are relentless when it comes to sniffing out their suspect.
“It’s amazing what these dogs can do,” said Janine Sandoval, a Deputy for Riverside County Sheriff Department’s K-9 unit and the handler for 2 ½-year-old Raven. “They are engineered (biologically) to be trailing dogs. Those squishy wrinkly faces – they trap scent and those floppy ears waft’s the scent to their nose. This is what they are meant to do.”
For the last year, Sandoval and Raven, have been waiting for the arrival of their new puppy partners Peyton and Caroline, who are now training to become new super sleuths.
For the last few weeks, new K-9 handlers Adam Kurylowicz and Shawn Gurganious have been training alongside their bloodhounds, learning how to trail, keep their noses to the ground and play tracking games that will teach them how follow the scent.
Deputy’s Kurylowicz and Gurganious were handpicked to join Riverside’s nationally recognized bloodhound unit started in 1999 by Captain Coby Webb.
“I look for people who aren’t seeking the prestige,” said Captain Webb, who has had the honor of winning numerous awards and is the only female Bloodhound trainer in the United States. “They can’t be afraid of drool, dog hair or commitment. This is a 24-hour job. If you get a call –you gotta go. Sometimes that’s when you are sitting down to dinner or at a movie. But, I have to know, how bad do you want this?”
The coveted K-9 units at the Riverside Sheriff’s has 29 dogs deputized in the Department, this includes “bite” dogs for Patrol, Corrections, Bomb Team and Special Investigations.
Unlike their counterparts, bloodhounds are known for their docile demeanor that may not bring about fear, but they almost always catch their man (or woman.)
Deputy Shawn Gurganious has been with the Department for 12 years and worked a large part of his career as a motorcycle cop. He’d always wanted to be a K-9 handler, but he also knew he wanted to slow down and experience a new line of police work.
With his 14-week-old puppy Peyton, his law enforcement career has definitely changed.
“It’s a whole new job” said Deputy Gurganious. “I wanted to do something slower speed. Bloodhounds are more search and rescue, it’s different. In this job, you go out there and you are helping to find people.”
Deputy Kurylowicz is handler and ‘dog dad” to six-month-old Caroline, who is known as the rambunctious one in the group. While the other bloodhounds are known for being chill and mellow, Caroline leads the charge in playful and curious.
“In some ways, what we get to do is play with puppies all day, but its work,” said Deputy Kurylowicz. “We are team so we are learning how to complement each other, we go to numerous areas and show her how to keep her nose to the ground and trouble shoot. Bloodhounds are fascinating and I’m pretty fortunate to be able to do what I am doing.”
Kurylowicz, who has been with the Department for 14 years, said it has been a lifelong dream to be a K-9 handler. He, like Gurganious, began to volunteer with the bloodhound team a year ago so he could learn what it takes to work with these sweet dogs that are brilliant when it comes to tracking scents.
The two new bloodhound puppies will train until about 10 months when they will then be tested to determine if they can join their colleagues Raven and Sandoval who have been handling the cases on their own.
“These dogs are so goofy. But they are focused. I’ve had dogs bump right into a car because they are so focused on finding the smell,” said Captain Webb. “There’s no better high than finding someone who is missing. These handlers they work so hard. They train so much. And they just love their dogs. And when these dogs make a find, how do you even say ‘Thank You?’