Sgt. Doug Wannamacher believes that he and the other officers in his unit have the best jobs in the sheriff's office.
"Every day we go to work, we play with dogs," he said.
Wannamacher, four of his fellow officers and four dogs assigned to the Greenville County Sheriff's Office's K-9 Services Unit put on a Monday, Nov. 6 show for the benefit of a large crowd of Lander University students, demonstrating the dogs' tracking skills, ability to detect drugs and strict adherence to the orders of their handlers.
The officers each spoke, discussing their jobs and the uses of K-9 services in multiple law enforcement, emergency rescue and homeland security contexts. A question and answer session followed.
Dogs "smell 44 times better than we do. They have 220 million nose receptors compared to our five million. We use them to locate missing persons, criminals and illegal narcotics," said Wannamacher, a master dog trainer certified by the North American Work Dog Association.
The 23 dogs in the unit are a diverse lot, representing different breeds with different specialties. The most common breeds are Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds, purchased abroad at a cost of around $7,500 each. The unit does its own training, using a combination of classical and operant conditioning.
"A lot of canine psychology" goes into the 600-hour course that trainers take before working with the dogs, according to Wannamacher. Trainers have to be in good physical shape and highly motivated.
"Dog handling is a love and a passion. If you don't have that for the dogs, you'll bring a dog down," he said.
Lander Assistant Professor of Criminology Dr. Daniel Kavish said that the law enforcement contacts of University Police Chief Eddie Briggs made the K-9 Demonstration possible. He called it "a significant event for Lander University and Lander students because it was the first major criminal justice themed event held on campus since President Cosentino named Criminology and Criminal Justice a signature program at Lander."
This is the inaugural year of Lander's new B.S. in Criminology Program, the only such program offered by a public institution in the state. Kavish said that "bringing local law enforcement to the campus to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and training is a great way to celebrate the occasion."