Well-trained nose returns to parish force

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Jaap, an 8-year-old Belgian Shepard, stands next to his handler Dustin Lemoine ready to attack during a training exercise Monday afternoon at the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office. The dog recently returned from extensive training in narcotics detection and human tracking with Lemoine.

VIDALIA — A familiar nose is back on the streets of Concordia Parish.

Jaap, an 8-year-old Belgian Shepard dog or Malinois, recently returned from training with his new handler, K-9 Deputy Dustin Lemoine.

Lemoine and Jaap visited a kennel in Laurel to receive extensive training in narcotics detection and human tracking.

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While Jaap has worked with three previous handlers under the previous administration at the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, a new handler must receive training with his dog before hitting the streets as a team.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — With his handler, K-9 Deputy Dustin Lemoine, 8-year-old Belgian Shepard Jaap looks for a stash of drugs hidden in the gas tank of a truck during a training exercise at the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Monday afternoon.

But the two are no strangers, Lemoine said as Jaap sat attentively by his side.

“I’ve helped train and do different things with all his previous trainers,” Lemoine said. “I grew up with dogs, so this is what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Some of the command training — sit and stay — was similar to the training with his previous dogs, Lemoine said but with one slight difference.

“All his commands are in Dutch,” Lemoine said. “That way the suspect can’t tell him to let go.

“They don’t have the right words, only I do.”

Jaap executes a dozen Dutch commands — from barking on command to searching key points of a vehicle for narcotics.

All the training — for both Lemoine and Jaap — paid off last week, as Jaap successfully alerted the deputy of narcotics in a vehicle during a traffic stop.

“I had seen some marijuana in the subject’s vehicle, but he actually found some steroids that I didn’t see right away,” Lemoine said. “I was relieved to see him find that because you do all this training and you’re not sure if it’s paid off.

“It was a good feeling that’s for sure.”

Jaap’s tracking training hasn’t been showcased yet, but it’s something Lemoine said he’s also excited to see.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Eight-year-old Belgian Shepard Jaap latches onto the protective sleeve worn by Concordia Parish deputy Terry Stephens Monday afternoon during a training exercise.

“A bloodhound goes off human odor, but what Jaap does is go off human odor and crushed vegetation — imprints in the ground and crushed leaves,” Lemoine said. “We do between 30 minutes and one hour of training every day, so he’s ready.”

The training varies from obedience, narcotics and bite work, where Jaap clamps down on a bite sleeve worn by a brave volunteer.

Chief Deputy David Hedrick said the $3,500 price tag of the training class in Laurel was a small price to pay for an invaluable member of the sheriff’s office.

“Any tool that we can use that’s going to give us a leg up on the drug dealers is extremely valuable,” Hedrick said. “Sometimes there are things we can’t see or smell in hidden panels, so that’s why he’s so valuable to this department.”

But at the end of the day, the narcotics sniffing, human tracking K-9 reverts back to man’s best friend.

“He stays at my house where I have a kennel set up,” Lemoine said. “I have three boys, and they help me feed him and take care of him.

“He’s just part of the family at home.”


Eight-year-old Belgian Shepard Jaap bears his teeth as he tries to grab onto a toy thrown to him after a successful training exercise Monday afternoon.