By Michael StrasserMay 24, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 24, 2018) -- The competition was strong and the camaraderie was spirited at the inaugural Top Dog Competition on May 23 at Fort Drum.
Hosted by the 8th Military Working Dog Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, the event tested K9 teams from Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, Watertown Police Department, New York State Troopers and Fort Drum.
The competition featured three events: a scavenger hunt where K9 teams used clues to find training aids; "Find the Odor," which required teams to challenge competitors to challenge each other by beating proposed times to detect odors; and the obstacle course, where the handlers led the working dogs through eight stations, then completed it themselves.
New York State Trooper Mark Buzzard and his K9 partner, C.T., won top prize, while Sgt. Giovanna Donofrio and Dzony, representing 8th MWD Detachment, placed second. Donofrio has been with the three-year-old German Shepherd for two months, and they recently completed the certification that allows them to practice law enforcement as a team. She said that she was excited for the chance to test their skills in competition.
"This was pretty challenging," Donofrio said. "We're still getting to know each other, so the obedience portion of the competition wasn't the greatest for us but it was still pretty exciting to see. And his detection showed how good he is getting through training. I'm really proud of him."
Donofrio has been a dog handler for three year and has worked with three MWDs. She said that her unit looks forward to professional development opportunities with their civilian counterparts.
"We love when they come to Fort Drum, and we always get along so well," she said.
Second Lt. Katiya Jackson, 8th MWD Detachment officer-in-charge, helped coordinate the day's event and said the competition was designed to be fun, yet challenging.
"This is also a training event for all the agencies, and us, because we can see what they do and it's good to see the different skills and techniques that they use," she said.
She said that there are not many K9 units in the area, and with demanding schedules, they were fortunate to get good representation from local agencies.
"Sometimes it's hard for everyone to get on the same page, so we were happy to get these teams together today," Jackson said. "This is the first time we're doing this event, but we would love to continue it."
Staff Sgt. Steven Ramil, Top Dog noncommissioned officer in charge, said that MPs frequently works with local law enforcement units.
"We interact with them quite a bit, maybe once a month," he said. Sometimes we don't have enough drug (detection) dogs available for health and welfare checks, so we ask them to assist with those. We also do joint training every so often."
Fort Drum Police Chief Todd Julian served as one of the judges and said that he enjoyed watching the event, and that it was a great way to reinforce the partnership with local law enforcement units.
"In the end, we're all partners in law enforcement to keep our communities safe," he said.
Col. Kenneth D. Harrison, Fort Drum garrison commander, presented awards to the participants and thanked the 8th MWD Detachment Soldiers who organized the event.
"What a great day, and what a great symbol of the partnership that we all have and enjoy together," he said. "It's a very special relationship we have with emergency services and law enforcement ... I appreciate it, and I know our military community really appreciates it. The superstars out here are the teams - it's the dogs and the dog handlers. You guys looked fantastic out there and I really appreciate what you do."