Rohnert Park met its new public safety canine at the city council meeting last Tues., Nov. 27. The pup goes by the name Orion, or Ori for short, and is the newest addition to Rohnert Park’s Public Safety Department. At only a year and a half old Ori is still very much a wide-eyed rookie to the department, but he held himself with cool discipline as he stood in front of the city council while his handler, Ben Fernandez, presented him to the people.
“Seeing K-9 officers growing up I always thought, ‘what an awesome job that would be.’ That drew me into the profession,” Fernandez said. “When I came to Rohnert Park we had a K-9 program but unfortunately we lost it. To get it back is huge.”
The city hopes to get use out of Ori. To begin with, the young German Shepherd is going to stick to search and apprehension, exploring the creeks and back alleys of Rohnert Park while on the lookout for nefarious activities. Eventually around March, Fernandez will take Ori to a drug school and have him trained to sniff out narcotics. Fernandez would also someday like to take Ori to tracking school, but there are no definite plans for that at the moment.
All of this goes a long way towards improving officer safety.
“If we go into a residence and someone is hiding in their bedroom then what Ori is going to do is go in and search around. When he finds the bad guy, which he will, then he’s going to start barking,” Fernandez said. “Nine times out of ten when people hear the dog barking and hear me give the announcement they’ll give up.”
A German Shepherd can be a rather difficult breed of dog to raise. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed is famous for its loyalty, intelligence, and extremely high energy, but that same energy requires an outlet and can easily lead to aggressive behavior if the dog fails to find one. That can be a bit of a drawback when an animal is simultaneously trained for apprehension and required to interact with children.
Luckily Fernandez is a veteran. He’s been a police officer for 13 years and has had a long relationship with dogs. At his home in Windsor, Fernandez has another German Shepherd, this one a female, along with two little girls, 8 and 11, who frequently visit and play with Ori in his kennel behind their house. It’s an interaction he carefully controls.
“The good thing with Ori is that he’s social. I can take him for walks in my community,” Fernandez said. “I’ll go out with my girls so that he can visit and play with him. I’ll go inside the kennel with them just to make sure that it’s safe. It’s not like I think Ori would ever do something, but they’re kids and I want to be there.”