Many thanks to Lieutenant Eddie Rodrigue, III for taking his time to answer questions about K-9 Handlers and their partners. Join Chief Scott Silverii for more from Eddie Rodrigue.
Thanks again Eddie. Lets start with an introduction?
I’m currently a Lieutenant for the Thibodaux Police Department. I supervise the K-9 Unit and Problem Oriented Policing Unit. I’m also assigned to the Lafourche Parish Interagency Crises Management Unit (SWAT). I’m currently a National Certifying Official for the National Narcotics Detection Dog Association in the areas of Patrol, Narcotics, Cadaver, and Explosives.
I’m married with three sons. I have been teaching them how to care and work with dogs.
Becoming a K-9 handler is hard enough, how did you make the next step to become a nationally certified K9 Trainer?
I was able to attend my first National K-9 seminar at the young age of approximately fifteen years old, with my father. I then made myself a sponge and tried to absorb all the training techniques of the older trainers. All of the trainers were eager to teach me because they saw how eager I was to learn.
In 1998 I was recognized along with Chuck Brazile, by the NNDDA as a K-9 decoy. In 2001 I applied to become a Patrol Dog Certifying Official with the NNDDA. I traveled to Huston, Texas. and began my oral board, once the board had viewed my written packet. When I walked into the room for my oral board I was asked numerous questions from approximately six to ten of some of the most respected K-9 trainers in the industry.
Most of the board had twenty plus years of training each at that time. I was pretty nervous but must not have shown, because they approved me to start certifying Patrol Dogs for the NNDDA. I applied for narcotics certifying official in 2002. I went through the same process and was approved. In 2006 in Narcogdoches Teaxs. at the NNDDA national seminar the NNDDA board approved to allow me to begin to certify explosive and cadaver dogs.
So much personal time and dedication involved, what do you like most about training?
I love to start with dogs that have no training and watch them grow. I’m most intrigued by the dog’s olfactory system, their nose. The dogs amaze me on how they are able to detect a trained odor.
Now this is a tough question, what’s more difficult to train – the K9 or the Handler?
I find the K-9’s are a lot easier to train but on that note I have had some dogs that took a while longer. I have also had some rookie handlers that walk in and simply amazed me, with the way they worked their dog.
How long does it take to train a Team?
I find this a difficult question to answer. I compare most dogs to people they all learn at different stages. You have to keep trying new things with some dogs until you find what obtains the behavior you want.
If we are talking about a green K-9 team as I was when I started we went through a twelve week K-9 Academy before attempting our certifications. These days’ dogs are coming with some prior training, so you may be able to shorten that time depending on the dog and handler. It is a great pleaser when the dog and handler learn at the same pace.
Sounds like a lifetime of experiences. What’s your most memorable moment as a K9 Handler?
In 2000 there was an attempted bank robbery in Thibodaux. The suspects had fled in a vehicle to a high crime area in Thibodaux. Patrol Officer’s had surrounded two trailers. I was a young K-9 handler and SWAT Officer at the time.
The CMU (SWAT) was tasked with clearing both residences. Before we started I remember my dad telling me “Remember what I showed you. You are trained for this”. At the time I worked a Belgian Malinois named Arco, who was an outstanding dog. We began to clear the first trailer, which we were told no one had entered.
Arco and I entered with the team behind us, as we began clearing I could hear my dad’s voice in my head. I also had these big googles, which fogged up and I could not see much at all. Once I removed the googles I could see Arco working suspect odor in the master bedroom. Arco had located and engaged the suspect, which was hiding under the bed.
The team then took the suspect into custody without further incident. This incident showed me very early on never assume anything is clear, until you’re sure.
Lots of people ask this question I know. Is it tough to draw the line between work partner and family friend?
I think of all my dogs as family and a true brother officer. However, I would much rather explain to my boys why their friend did not return home before explaining to a child why their parent did not return home.
A few years back I had to make the decision to put my retired K-9 Cee to sleep. I raised him as a puppy from the day he was born and we had an unbelievable bond. Cee retired at ten years old. By the time he turned eleven he had numerous health issues and I had to make the decision no K-9 handler wants to make.
I felt that day I lost my best friend and cried like a small child. I still think about him and could only wish when we meet again he understands the decision I had to make. I still often wonder did I make the right decision that day.
I currently work a son from Cee’s brother, Cisco. His name is Vic. My friend Lance Simeanoux and I raised him. K-9 Vic often reminds me of Cee.
What do you love the most about being a K9 handler / Trainer?
I love the loyalty of a K-9. Once you have a bond with them they will not let you down.
Police K-9 Interview | Part 2
BOLO for Part 3