For Mesa K-9 Officer Scott Callender, unit trainer for the department, being a K-9 officer was something he dreamed of as a kid watching his step dad serve in the same capacity.
“This is the whole reason I became a cop,” said Callendar, who has been with the Mesa Police Department for 22 years, nine of those in the K-9 unit. “It’s something we’re very passionate about. It’s more of a lifestyle than a job because our dogs go home with us and we are always together and responsible for them 24 hours every single day.”
So, what makes a good K-9 officer?
“We look for more senior officers who have a variety of experience throughout the department,” Callender said. “We want people with a lot of experience because it’s a big responsibility to be in charge of a K-9. We look for those who can make good decisions under pressure.”
What about the dog?
“When testing dogs (for service) we look for dogs who do their jobs no matter what,” Callendar said. “They cannot be distracted or give up.”
All of this hard work and talent will be displayed this weekend in Mesa at the 15th Annual Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 6 and 7 at Sloan Park, 2330 W. Rio Salado Parkway.
The free event is open to the public and donations at the gates are greatly appreciated to help support the donation-driven group (no public funds are used). No privately-owned dogs are allowed in the venue.
“This is designed as a competition for police dog teams,” Callendar said. “This event brings together handlers from across the country. Events all revolve around training for our actual job. It’s a chance for handlers to show off their skills and a big part is the interaction with the dogs.”
Competitions include: explosives, narcotics, area and building searches. Each event is judged and scored for awards. The “Top Dog” honor goes to the team with the overall best scores.
The event was started 15 years ago by Mesa K-9 Officer Gordy Leitz, who is retiring after 30 years with the Mesa Police Department after this year’s event. He’s been with the department’s K-9 unit for 28 of those 30 years and is well respected by his peers.
For more information about Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials, visit: www.desertdogk9trials.com.
– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.