In spring 2020 – and after months of planning and training – K9 Pooch joined the Snoqualmie Police Department. This past fall, Pooch expanded his skills to North Bend.
Officer John Fischbeck had to work to be the handler of K9 Pooch. When the city council approved Chief Phipps’s request to add a drug detection dog to the department in May 2019, it kicked off interviews internally and with supervisors from nearby cities with existing K9 units. Officer Fischbeck was able to “job shadow” handlers with agency partners and even train with a drug detection K9 before interviewing to make sure he was up to snuff.
Local nonprofit Friends of Snoqualmie Valley K9 was established and funds the canine narcotic detection program, including Pooch’s acquisition, the handler training program, veterinarian visits, food, and other expenses.
After all, Pooch was already trained in the canine art of illegal narcotic detection through Pacific Coast K9 near Bellingham, WA, when Fischbeck met him. They then had to do some initial training for brand new drug detection teams, which is at least 200 hours of instruction and training on canine behavior and physiology to canine deployment and legal issues.
Plus, Fischbeck had to learn how to earn Pooch’s trust, and it took time to develop that bond. But now he says, “Now he follows me all around, and if I leave a room, he either comes looking for me or is waiting intently for me to return. He’s become my best furry friend.”
The team has been making a big impact in the upper Snoqualmie Valley in a short amount of time. Last August, he helped Washington State Patrol Troopers confiscate an estimated $6 million worth of heroin and fentanyl near the I-90 / SR 18 interchange.
K9 Pooch can be utilized in several ways, said Fischbeck, from finding contraband drugs to indicating whether the odor of contraband drugs is coming from a vehicle. K9 Pooch works pretty fast – if he catches the odor of a trained drug, he works the odor to the closest point to the source and provides his final indication where he sits and stares.
Captain Almquist said, “Pooch is an asset to our department and has proved his skills in detecting and helping keep illegal narcotics out of the Snoqualmie Valley. The focus of the program is stopping the transportation and sale of illegal narcotics. Still, Pooch is also a key educational tool used to launch important discussions with North Bend and Snoqualmie children about the negative impact of drugs.”
The cop/canine duo would love to start working with the school district or community groups to do educational outreach with kids. Their hope is once school and youth groups return to the “new normal,” they can get more involved.
Until then, they try to hop out of the car now and then and make friends with a kid or two on patrol and introduce K9 Pooch. Which Fischbeck says is great for him because he loves making new friends!
K9 Pooch is a very approachable, 1-year old yellow lab who has his own room at his partner’s house. He is a part of the family who, on his off days, enjoys running around the yard with the biggest stick he can find or going on family road trips because he can’t get enough of car rides.
A typical K9 career span range from about 6 – 8 years, but it depends on the dog. His human partner does his part, as K9 Pooch’s partner, to try to limit the exposure of potentially dangerous situations to prevent him from getting hurt while helping the community.
Here’s hoping K9 Pooch and his partner Officer John Fischbeck have a long and safe career helping keep the Snoqualmie Valley Safe!