Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Police Dog Service members Kevin Rutten and Brady Kyle and police canine Hawkes runs through a Vernon neighbourhood Dec. 8, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Police Dog Service members Kevin Rutten and Brady Kyle and police canine Hawkes runs through a Vernon neighbourhood Dec. 8, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon canine cops’ careers ramp up

Police Dog Services called out for 79% of annual calls in last half of 2020

Jagger and Hawkes have been making headlines regularly for the past six months as they responded to more than 79 per cent of Vernon’s total calls in that time.

A change in the way Police Dog Service interventions are recorded explains the surge of calls, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski said. Previously, only instances where PDS successfully established a track were recorded in quarterly reports. Now, any instance where Jagger, Hawkes and their handlers are called out, it is recorded.

In 2020, the PDS members Kevin Rutten and Brady Kyle, and their German shepherds, responded to 58 calls in Vernon and Coldstream, plus another 42 in the Greater Vernon Area. Last year, they were only recorded on a total of 31 occasions.

The fourth-quarter RCMP report from October to December 2020, shows the PDS intervened 12 times in rural North Okanagan and 17 in Vernon and Coldstream.

But that’s just a small glimpse of the work they do.

Vernon North Okanagan has two working PDS teams who rotate shifts and are available on call 24-7, Terleski said.

“Kev and I cover here, Sicamous, Salmon Arm and Revelstoke,” said Kyle. “It’s quite a big area.”

“The next closest handlers are in Kelowna and Kamloops,” Rutten added.

In the past quarter alone, the duo and their dogs tracked a suspect from a stolen vehicle to an Enderby residence; located a high-risk missing youth in rural Spallumcheen; tracked down a suspect hiding behind a tree in attempts to evade arrest after stealing a vehicle in Spallumcheen; and helped in the search and arrest of high-risk offender Robert Heltman, who was wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant, on Westside Road.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Police Dog Service member Brady Kyle and canine Hawkes sniff in a Vernon yard during a Dec. 8, 2020, training exercise. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Police Dog Service member Brady Kyle and canine Hawkes sniff in a Vernon yard during a Dec. 8, 2020, training exercise. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Rutten said the PDS is a division unlike any other.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 16 years.

“You’re outside all the time, you get to ride with your dog, so you have him to keep you company. You go to the best calls, the hot calls, usually the more important calls so you don’t get tied down with more boring stuff,” he said after a successful tracking practice through a Vernon neighbourhood on Dec. 8, 2020. “Plus, you cover an area, which is nice because you get out of town and you can travel a bit.”

Injuries, however, are a common occurrence as handlers follow their dogs over uneven terrain and obstacles while tracking their subject.

“Jumping fences in the dark and tripping into holes — guys do tend to accumulate a lot of injuries throughout their service,” Rutten said.

Before getting the gig of a lifetime, handlers undertake a six-month course in Red Deer to become part of the dog section. Once that’s complete, members are paired with a dog from the breeding program.

Jagger is Rutten’s third dog. He said his two previous were with him seven years each, “which is uncommon.”

“My dog that I have now was being worked by a different handler in the field, but he left the section,” he said. “Jagger was already a trained dog, so I did what they call a re-team course, which is basically a three-week familiarization between you and the dog.”

READ MORE: Vernon police dog sniffs out Enderby man evading arrest

READ MORE: Kelowna man caught by Vernon police dog

The two handlers keep their dogs in tip-top shape, running exercises regularly. A track is established by an officer beforehand and the dogs must trace the scent before being rewarded — with some seriously deserved playtime.

“You’ve got to be used to slobber in this field,” Rutten said.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP member Brady Kyle and Hawkes have some well-deserved playtime after a successful track exercise Dec. 8, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP member Brady Kyle and Hawkes have some well-deserved playtime after a successful track exercise Dec. 8, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

On that chilly December afternoon, Rutten and Kyle ran Jagger and Hawkes across busy streets and through backyards in a Vernon neighbourhood in broad daylight.

“It could be anything,” Terleski explained mid-jog. “We could be running through people’s yards, jumping over fences… It’s not really a normal sight, but for the most part, people kind of understand.”

When homeowners and residents see a dog running through followed by handlers and uniformed officers, people tend to keep their distance, Terleski said.

Terleski noted neighbours are often informed of planned exercises so they’re not so surprised — but, that’s not a courtesy that can often be extended while a real police situation unfolds.

When the work is said and done, Jagger and Hawkes reside with their handlers.

“They are part of their family,” Terleski said.

READ MORE: Vernon RCMP’s newest member wet behind ears – and all over

READ MORE: Cougar destroyed after killing goat, attacking donkey in Vernon


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Potential COVID-19 exposure on March 1 Penticton flight

Interior Health lists a public exposure for the Pacific Air Flight from Vancouver on March 1

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Most Read