Oh, excuse me, I may have forgotten to mention that this extraordinary individual is of the canine, rather than the human, species. Her name is Shiloh and she actually works for the Cherokee City Police Department. They "hired" this employee six years ago when a group of concerned Cherokee business people contributed funds to make it possible. Born and trained in Minneapolis, she was handled by a Cherokee officer until he moved to another city. At that point, Officer Adam Roberts who lives here in Marcus took over. I'm sure his life-long affection for dogs was high on his resume', but patience and kindness have to be involved, as well.
Roberts spent a week with a Master Trainer in Fort Dodge and some time with Shiloh's original trainer, a woman in Minneapolis, before taking over. He still goes to Fort Dodge once a month and occasionally to Minneapolis, for additional training. Adam had to make sure his methods were as consistent as possible with those of her previous handlers. Still, he gives Shiloh a lot of credit for adapting to him so readily. Consistency seems to be the key. To fix the proper behavior, there must be constant repetition, with praise for the correct response. Praise consists of clapping (just as a prima donna reacts to applause) and the repetition of phrases such as "good girl," while incorrect responses are greeted with "no, no" repeated in a firm tone. One never strikes a dog or displays disapproval in any physical way.
But I must tell you of my special neighbor's competitive success. It wasn't in a beauty contest, though if you saw her picture in a recent issue of this newspaper, you might agree it could have been. The event, which took place in Cookeville, TN, just outside of Nashville, was for the purpose of certifying drug-sniffing dogs from all over the nation. To qualify for Nationals, Shiloh placed in the top three in Regionals, where dogs are judged on 200 points, with 140 required to certify. Roberts' dog had 199.67 points.
Eighty-eight dogs from all over the nation, including cities such as New York, Atlanta and Miami, were competing at Cookeville. Inside competition took place on the first day. Two "hides" of illegal drugs were placed in three rooms. Precisely timed, the dogs were graded on the time it took to discover the stashes, and on a number of other factors, such as leash control, the dog's attitude, etc. The second day was an outside situation where there were two "hides" in a total of five cars. Again, similar judging took place. Based on these totals, Shiloh took 8th place with 193 of 200 points. Then the locals partnered with individuals from the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department in team tests. Their team won first place. All in all, it was a showing of which all of us in the area can be proud. Aside from that, Officer Roberts and his wife, Dawn, had a wonderful time in that lovely area, thanks to their famous guest, my famous neighbor.
One final note, Adam told me that it is essential for male handlers to raise the pitch of their voices when addressing the dogs. It seems a proven fact that they respond much more readily to the female voice. I think that's an interesting footnote to this story of my classy neighbor. Don't you agree?