Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:08
When Mike Stone joined the Marion Police Department Aug. 1, the city got two officers for the price of one.
Stone’s partner, Raven, is a 2-year-old German shepherd, making them probably the first K-9 Unit in the city’s police department, according to Sgt. Brad Cady.
Stone said Raven’s key contribution is to track potential evidence.
“Right now, she can detect four odors—marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines,” he said. “She has also alerted on pain medications because they are heroin or opiate derivatives.”
Stone said he can throw a ball in a field and let Raven out of the car and she will track it because K-9s are trained to look for items that don’t fit a particular situation.
For example, Raven can walk into a field and smell grass, birds and other animals, but when she smells a human with adrenaline and skin rasp, the dog will search for the human.
Stone said he has tested Raven’ skills by throwing gun shells in a field. K-9s will search for the odor; it is up to the handler to proof those smells to determine if the dog is on track.
If tracking goes amiss, Stone said it is never the dog’s fault.
“It’s always the handler’s fault, which is why it’s important to work with the dog on tracking so not to miss clues or indicators,” he said.
Stone said its challenging for him to keep up with his K-9 partner: “Raven has a high drive, going 200 mph.”
When they are tracking, though, he will put Raven on a leash and the two will walk as a team.
“If it’s a gun shell out there, a body part or somebody has thrown dope out there, we don’t want her to get into that,” he said. “When she locates the item, she lays down.”
Partners in Florence
Prior to accepting a position in Marion, Stone was the police chief in Florence. While there, the city of Florence saw a need for a K9. The first dog, Kahti, now a 7-year-old sable German Shepherd, is retired and lives with Stone and his family.
“I thought (in Florence) we should start with an experienced animal, but I didn’t know a lot about it and figured what better than to have a dog teach me,” he said.
Unlike Raven, who was a rescued animal, Stone said Kahti has champion blood lines and was papered.
“Raven was brought here (from Germany) as a family pet, but because her drive was so high, the family dropped her off at the pound,” he said.
The day Raven was going to be put down, Nelson Rivera, a retired Junction City police officer who now trains K-9s as a business, rescued the dog.
Raven hadn’t been on the job long in Florence when Stone left his employment with the city. He asked if could take the dog with him.
“I was able to keep her,” he said. “The city gave me Raven’s cage out of the old patrol car.”
Stone said he fashioned the cage to fit in his Marion patrol car.
Even as a young K-9, Raven knew her four odors in about two hours. But the training never stops for Stone and Raven.
“We train once a week, minimum,” he said. “We will go up every two or three weeks to Rivera’s and work with other K-9 handlers.”
It’s a way, he said, for the handlers to talk about problems they are having, things they have seen, case law and more.
Stone pays for all Raven’s food, vet bills, leash, toys, scent rags and food.
“The city and officers were gracious in donating a doghouse and donating time for concrete work,” he said. “I want the city to know I appreciate their support and will do my part, too.”
Stone also expressed gratitude for the opportunity of working with Police Chief Tyler Mermis.
“As a chief in Florence,” he said, “I looked up to Tyler and (Josh) Whitwell, who are both at the top of their game.”
Stone spoke highly of his K-9 partner, too.
“I have done different aspects of this job and (working with a K-9) has been the most rewarding and the most frustrating job I ever had,” he said. “(Raven) would give her life for me and I would give my life for her, and she knows that. It’s a tight bond.”
Stone said his wife, Alicia, has even designed a T-shirt for him with the Latin wording “Canis Fidelis,” meaning “faith