WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. - More validation the Watervliet Arsenal is becoming more important to the community was achieved on May 16 when nearly 30 regional law enforcement K-9 teams converged on the Arsenal to standardize their tactics, techniques, and procedures in hopes of better protecting lives.

The daylong exercise brought together K-9 teams and trainers from such places as New London, Conn., Pittsfield, Mass., as well as from several New York communities, and was coordinated by the Albany Police Department.

From a distance, those floppy-eared, man's best friends seemed lovable. But step too close and a dose of reality immediately set in. This was no stroll in the park with one's household pet, nor should it be. Those dog handling teams are often thrust into harms way to apprehend fleeing fugitives or to seek out bombs and we should want them to be intimidating.

Steve Dorn, from the Albany Police K-9 unit and who was one of the primary coordinators for the training, said "It is important that we conduct this type of regional training once a quarter because there have been several occasions when we have had to provide, as well as receive, K-9 support from local and state police units."

"Today's training focused on such topics as building and vehicle searches, apprehension, narcotics detection, and gunfire neutralization," Dorn said. "But probably the toughest area to train was on tracking."

Brian Dyer, from the Albany K-9 team, said that for a dog tracking is not an exact science.

"Dogs follow the human scent and depending on the weather and the terrain, the scent may only last minutes or hours," Dyer said.

As a quick demonstration, Dorn threw his car keys into a grassy area out of the view of Dyer's dog. When Dyer released his dog, the dog sniffed up and down a 20' area and found the keys in seconds.

Many of us could use that type of dog at home to find our misplaced keys.

This is the second time the Albany Police Department has used the Watervliet Arsenal as a training resource and according to Arsenal Security Training Officer, Lt. Roy Barringer, this won't be the last.

"This is a great opportunity for the Arsenal in that having a regional training exercise not only builds great relationships with those who may be called upon to help support the Arsenal in a time of crisis, but we also get great training even though we don't have K-9 teams," Barringer said.

"It is very important that we know how K-9 teams operate when conducting a search or an apprehension," Barringer said. "The last thing that we want is to do is to impede the dog team or worse yet, get someone hurt because we don't know a K-9 team's techniques and tactics."

At the end of the day, there had to be a definition of success.

To Dorn, the definition of success was that they, dogs and their handlers, were leaving better trained than when they had arrived.

To the dogs, the definition of success was the receipt of a "jute" toy.

"To the dogs, this is all a game," Dyer said. "They do what they do because they know if they are successful, they will receive a toy."

But what the dogs and their handlers do is certainly not a game. Just after Dyer had finished his comments, he showed a photo of a gun that his dog, Red, had discovered during an apprehension last week.