RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - You have a chance to have one-on-one time with Richland County deputies and their K9 officers.
The sheriff's department is holding its 7th annual "Guardians of the Night K-9 5K" - an event that is about much more than just exercise. It's about protecting those who protect us.
This 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, Kai, is one of the 15 dogs on the K9 team. She is the partner of Sgt. Alan Cox of the Special Teams Division. Sgt. Cox trains the dogs for different purposes including narcotics, tracking, apprehension, and explosives. Kai has a keen ability to track.
"When the dog sits, that is the final indication and you know something has been detected," says Sgt. Cox.
The K9s find illegal drugs and get them off the streets, find missing adults and children, detect bombs, protect their handlers and are able to run, chase and apprehend criminals in places difficult for a human. Numerous times, Kai's sharp sense of smell has found what deputies could not.
"Their sense of smell is the biggest thing we use. Their sense of smell is so sensitive that they can smell things that we can't," Lt. Kevin Hoover of the K9 teams says. "If it's missing people, if it's illegal drugs, if it's bad guys who ran away, they can sense where they are before we can and they can tell us through their body language that they are getting near the bad guy."
Just like the human officers, the K9 officers have to be protected. The upcoming "Guardians of the Night" race was created to raise money to buy the items needed to safeguard this special force.
The money raised also goes to buy collars, leads, food and vet care - something Lt. Hoover relied on a few weeks ago when his K9 Arko was critically ill. Although it was touch and go, Arko pulled through. Sadly, not all K9s make it.
In fact, the Guardians of the Night event is in memory of Fargo who was killed in the line of duty in 2011 after he tracked down an armed robber. That robber shot Fargo three times. Despite his soon-to-be fatal injuries, Fargo returned to his partner as trained.
The Guardians of the Night K-9 5K run and walk is Saturday, July 29 at 10:30 p.m. Meet at the Village at Sandhill which is in the northeast part of Richland County.