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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Old police dog takes top prize in N.D. competition

  • Don’t say anything about old dogs and new tricks to Gypsy, the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department’s dog. Ten-years-old and on the verge of retirement, the chocolate Lab just won her second top award in a statewide police dog competition.
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  • Don’t say anything about old dogs and new tricks to Gypsy, the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department’s dog. Ten-years-old and on the verge of retirement, the chocolate Lab just won her second top award in a statewide police dog competition.
    “I was absolutely... I was amazed. I was astounded,” her partner, Cpl. Mike Lee, said Thursday, the day after the competition at Minot Air Force Base.
    Gypsy won first in the “iron dog” part of the competition, which tests her maneuverability under stressful conditions such as gunfire, and second in the drug sniffing. Together, that gave her enough points to win the North Dakota Peace Officers Association’s Top Dog trophy.
    The thing of it is, she hadn’t even trained much — Lee said they were working too much — her joints are arthritic and she isn’t formally trained in fancy maneuvers.
    In police parlance, she’s a single-purpose dog, trained to sniff out narcotics, not chase down criminals and take a bite out of crime.
    But Lee said he thought she had a good chance of taking home the trophy. “I thought those dual-purpose attack dogs are doing it. My dog’s just as good.”
    Gypsy already proved that in 2010, taking home the top dog award her second time competing.
    Fun for kiddies
    Gypsy was born somewhere in California and trained by a dog breeder in Long Prairie, Minn. Lee met her nine years ago and, as is the case with a lot of police dogs and their handlers, they’ve been practically inseparable since.
    They live together on his farm outside Grand Forks and spend all day working together.
    Lee said they spend a lot of time patrolling and waiting for a call for assistance from other officers who think the car the officers just pulled over might contain narcotics.
    Occasionally, they’ll do a demonstration for a school or a pack of Cub Scouts, he said, and that’s how Gypsy got her skills in maneuvering. That’s not part of her real job, he said, but he taught her the skills just to have something fun to show the kids.
    Winning
    There were about 11 other dogs at the Minot base competition.
    The iron dog competition required dogs to jump over obstacles and through windows, run through a tunnel and stay with her handler as he shoots a simulated gun and pull a person to safety. Lee even had to carry Gypsy.
    They went in cold without practicing and took first against, among others, attack dogs used to secure the nuclear-armed Minot Air Force Base.
    Page 2 of 2 - “She’s getting older and arthritic, but she’s got a big heart,” Lee said.
    Gypsy did practice for the narcotics sniffing contest a bit, but not enough. She took second.
    Lee said it’s harder physically than it looks. “It takes a lot of stamina for them to sniff and sniff and sniff. It’s like a sprinter running over and over.”
    The competition featured nine vehicles in all, including large construction vehicles, he said, and he could tell she was winded afterwards.
    This year’s competition will be Gypsy’s last.
    Lee said he’s asking Sheriff Bob Rost and the county commission to get a new dog and let Gypsy retire. “I live on a farm, and she can get to be a dog.”
    On the Web: To see video from the police dog competition, go to bit.ly/16qmlMB. Gypsy and Lee appear at the 6-minute mark.

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