On Saturday, K-9 officers competed in the 25th annual Springfield Police Department K-9 Skills Competition.

K-9 officers ran a timed obstacle course, including a long crawl. jumping through a prop window, and leaping over hurdles.

SPRINGFIELD – The 25th annual Springfield Police Department K-9 Skills Competition was held on Saturday, June 18, at Springfield High School’s Silke Field. 

Springfield’s furry officers competed against teams from five local agencies in timed events involving the dog and the handler, taking part in the free live demonstration of the work K-9s do. 

The dogs are highly trained canine law enforcement partners who live, train and work with their police officer handlers. SPD currently has four K-9 officers: Kirby, Flex, Nord and Gryff. 

“This is just a good opportunity for us to showcase our dogs and let the community see how hard we’ve been working,” Officer Andy Douglas said. “This is our way of saying thank you, come on out and what these dogs are capable of.” 

Douglas has been a K-9 handler with SPD for 12 years. “I joke with people that I spend more time with my dog (Nord) than I do with my family. But I do, he works with me every single day,” Douglas said. “He’s always in the back of my car on patrol, or we’re going on calls where I’m actually utilizing him. And then when I get home and I’m decompressing, he is too.” 

Teams on the track and inner field demonstrated searches, captures, vehicle pursuits and other live-action skills in one event, police officers protected by bite suits posed as suspects who attempted to flee the scene or even attack a police officer. 

Officer Julio Garcia-Cash has been working with his K-9, Gryff, for six months. “I’ve always been super interested in –working with dogs. They’re a great tool for us to be able to use on patrol. And after having worked patrol and asking for the dogs all the time, I thought I might as well work with them,” said Garcia-Cash. 

In the field, Garcia-Cash has called in K-9s to help with tracking, area searches and building searches. “Anytime we lose sight of a suspect, we can use a dog to locate that person who may be hiding or may have fled the scene,” said Garcia-Cash. “But a lot of us have kids at home too, so it’s important for us when we take them home to turn that off and just be a dog in the backyard.” 

This is the first K-9 Skills competition in two years due to the COVID pandemic, and Garcia-Cash, Douglas, Gryff and Nord were eager to compete again. 

“This will be our first year back after taking a couple years off and we’re all ready for it,” Douglas said. “The donations are a huge help. All the stuff that the dogs are wearing is because of the community support and donations. So we appreciate it. It’s awesome.” 

Springfield K-9 Unit merchandise was available and students from Springfield High School were selling concessions. Proceeds from food and clothing sales will go toward purchasing Springfield Police Department K-9 Unit equipment and training, medical kits, leashes, harnesses, bite suits and other needs.