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K-9 Buster retires from force
Written by Greg Ruland   
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 08:00

After spending three-quarters of his life assisting Cottonwood police battle drug crimes, Buster, one half of the city’s K-9 contingent, is ready to retire.

Buster, one of two K-9 units in service with Cottonwood Police Department, will be retiring soon due to age and declining health, according to Sgt. Kevin  Murie. Police are researching the possibility of purchasing a new drug-sniffing dog for the department, which could cost as much as $7,000.The 8-year-old German shepherd has been sniffing for drugs since 2004 when a combination of grants and donations from the community made it possible for Cottonwood Police Department to purchase the dog.

Buster’s age and recent health problems mean it’s time for the animal to retire from service, according to Sgt. Kevin Murie, Buster’s handler for the past 18 months.

Dakota, the department’s other K-9 unit, will remain on duty, Murie said.

The department is currently considering the purchase of a new drug sniffing dog. which could cost anywhere from $5,500 to $7,000, depending on the breed selected.

“We’re currently leaning toward a Labrador retriever,” Murie said.

During the past six years, Buster worked with three different officers who acted as his handlers. K-9 handlers are responsible for the feeding, grooming and living conditions of the animal in their care 24 hours every day, Murie said.

Animal and officer often become attached. When Buster officially retires, for example, he will continue to live with Murie.

“He did a great job for the police department,” Murie said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he could do the work today if it weren’t for his health condition.”

Buster has gone through two surgeries recently, one to remove a tumor and the other to remove his spleen.
Like many other police dogs in service in Yavapai County, Buster was trained over four weeks to use his sense of smell to detect illegal drugs.

A dog’s sensory system is primarily devoted to analyzing odors. In fact, a dog’s ability to smell is believed to be 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans, according to “How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind.”

When brought on scene, Buster searches a person or vehicle in a pattern, moving back and forth until he locates where the odor is located.

Drug-sniffing dogs alert to the scent of illegal drugs in different ways, Murie said.

“Buster had an aggressive alert,” he said. “He usually jumped up on the vehicle and scratched.”

“It’s actually pretty rewarding. It’s kind of funny how they react. They kind of know when they’ve found something. He know’s because he sees I’m happy and that makes him happy.”

While Buster was trained initially as a protection animal, his strong “play drive” made him an ideal candidate for drug detection, Murie said.

“He’s very friendly. He loves to fetch. He’ll fetch just about anything, tennis balls, soccer balls, you name it.”
Buster’s official retirement date has not been announced yet, but he spends much of his time these days at Murie’s home convalescing from his surgeries and wishing he was out on patrol.

“He knows when I put the uniform on,” Murie said. “He walks me to the door and he doesn’t like it when he has to stay when I leave.”


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