MADISON - The Madison Police Department has found positive results in the services of professionally trained K-9s that make drug investigations and seizures much more comprehensive and effective.
Captain J.T. Adams, one of the most certified, qualified and trained law enforcement officers in Boone County, is the caretaker, friend and partner to Rival, a playful and extremely intelligent 6-year-old Dutch Shepherd.
Adams is a certified SWAT instructor, sniper, K-9 instructor for narcotics, instructor for defense technology, instructor for distraction devices, instructor for handgun, patrol rifle and shotgun, among myriad other certifications.
He is also the chief of the Madison Volunteer Fire Department and his credits include firefighter 1,2 and 3, fire officer 1, 2 and basic auto, advanced auto, heavy truck rescue and rapid intervention team (RIT) among others.
The 1990 Scott High School graduate has been in law enforcement for nearly 25 years. He said his service with the fire department and Kanawha County Ambulance led to his interest and later a career in law enforcement.
"Some of my buddies were police officers and I had finished paramedics school and just needed to go back and test, but at the time I was offered a job in Sylvester and I took it," he said. "I guess that decision was influenced by being exposed to it. It seemed like a fit for me."
Adams has worked with two other dogs before Rival and said that their service time is largely determined by their health. His last dog, also of the same breed, served the community for eight years. She had a shoulder ailment that caused her to retire from service, but not from the officer's life.
"All three of the dogs I've had were imported from Europe," he said. "Rival is from Holland and my last dog was from Holland. There is a vendor (Battle Ridge K-9) here in town that we have bought the dogs through."
According to Adams, the dog's European heritage comes from the desire for a superior line of breeding. He said the hunt drive and prey drive are important factors in a police or a personal protection dog.
Rival takes commands in Dutch and German. This keeps the dog from being controlled by a suspect or bystander. The commands are very specific and unique to the dog, giving the officer total command of the situation, providing better results.
"I was very used to the Dutch commands from my previous dog so it took some adjustments by me to be able to get acquainted with German commands," he said. "Rival is to some extent, bilingual and can take both commands."
Rival is trained for narcotics, specifically, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. He specializes in trailing, officer protection and criminal apprehension.
Adams, along with Battle Ridge K-9 trained Rival.
"If I could have taught my previous dog to drive and write a report, I wouldn't have had to come to work," Adams said jokingly. "She was good at so many things. Rival is good at tracking and narcotics. He's very social but if I order him to, he will bite. Apprehension is his best attribute and he's 80-85 pounds."
Adams said the use of masking agents is futile when it comes to hiding drugs when a trained dog is present.
"You can lie to me and you can fool me, but you can't lie to that dog," he said. "He is looking for his toy and their sense of smell is so much greater than ours. They can indicate on a single marijuana seed and that is very small. If I lay a pizza out here, you and I will smell a pizza. The dog will smell the crust, the sauce, the sausage and the cheese and peppers."
One aspect of police dogs that Adams appreciates perhaps more than any other is that the dog is a weapon that can't be overtaken.
"You may have a chance to wrestle my gun or mace off of my belt in an isolated situation but you can't take that dog away from me," he said.
Rival eats a specially formulated food that encourages strong muscles, bones and brain functions that includes reaction and processing. He is treated with raw chicken and deer meat on occasion.
"In hind site, I would have liked to have worked for a large agency and been able to use the dogs more," he said. "They are an amazing tool when applied in the right way."
Adams and Rival are available to other law enforcement agencies who need their assistance across multiple counties.
Funding for the dogs have come from private donations and money raised by Adams himself from local businesses and civic-minded citizens. The dog comes at no financial cost to the city. Those who contribute to the K-9 fund are offered a private demonstration of the dog's abilities after training is complete.
Funding helps pay for bite suits in training, vests for the dog and associated equipment and gear.
Trent Cook, a patrol officer for the Madison PD and an EMT-basic for the BCAA donned a bite suit on this day in Madison City Park and Rival left a bruise on his arm after a photo session for the Coal Valley News.
"I'd love to do this more," he said after the session. "I love dogs and this interests me a lot. I hope I can do more of it in the future."
Madison Police Chief Chet Burgess spoke about the results that dogs can produce.
"What we like is that they can run onto things in a traffic stop that can give you probable cause," he said. "They pick up things we could never find on our own. Adams is so dedicated to it that he buys her food out of his own pocket. That is dedication."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter