Sherman and Deputy John OHara have a cozy office at the Alexandria Detention Center, not a place you might ordinarily characterize as cozy.
John prefers the chair and Sherman prefers the dog bed on the floor, so there is never an argument about seating arrangements.
Sherman, just over two and a half years old, and Deputy OHara, who has been in law enforcement for 32 years, have been together in the K-9 Explosives Detection Unit at the Alexandria Sheriffs Office since June of 2007. He is perfect for me, OHara said. He is so mellow and mild, and he isnt an excitable dog. Everyone loves him.
OHara had been requesting such a partner since shortly after 9/11. Because of the people we were housing, there was a safety concern, OHara told me. I really believed that we needed a dog like Sherman to help with explosive detection.
A number of high profile terrorism suspects have been held at the Detention Center. OHara believed that bringing on a dog trained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would add another layer of security.
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne concurred: Having a K-9 with his expertise searching for explosive devices bolsters our work as law enforcement officers. This increases the level of security for our city.
Since 1992, the ATF has trained dogs at a facility in Front Royal, where OHara and Sherman underwent an intensive 10-week program in the detection of explosive devices. By learning specific odors, Sherman was rewarded with food when he alerted properly. To keep his nose and discipline sharp, Sherman and OHara still train each day using the same methods. This keeps him fed, and it keeps him fresh, added OHara.
I can appreciate that method as I am a bit of a chow hound myself.
Shawn Crawford, Canine Supervisor at the Front Royal facility, said that he remembers Sherman very well. He is very methodical and does his job very well. He doesnt miss a thing. Crawford added that it was a good trait because not being so methodical could cause you to get hurt.
According to the ATF, there are only 112 ATFtrained explosives detection canine teams in the United States. And one of them is here in Alexandria. The only cost to Alexandria has been the vehicle Sherman is chauffeured around in and a few incidentals.
Calling Sherman a valuable asset to our Sheriffs Office, Lawhorne said. He is a major tool in the security of our detention center and the courthouse.
On the job, Sherman and OHara check the parking lots, garage and grounds outside the jail. They check vehicles, deliveries and the courthouse. What he can do is phenomenal. Together we have assisted the Alexandria Police Department on some calls and we will probably be called on to work the Pentagon 9/11 ceremony that is being planned. With a nose that knows, along with his mobility, Sherman can go where fixed equipment cannot.
If you ever see Sherman in the car on a hot day, dont think you can leave your pet in the car as well. Shermans vehicle has a heat alarm, a padded prefabricated kennel and plenty of water and other supplies on board.
Life is not all work for Sherman, who goes home with OHara every night and plays with Dynamite the other Lab in the family. On the job, he is OHaras partner; at home he is well-loved, especially by the OHaras three-year-old granddaughter.
If you see John and Sherman out and about, (Sherman is the blond with four legs), please say hello. If you ask, you may be invited to give Sherman a pat. Hed like that.
Well, another week has trotted by
Keep your tail high and your feet dry.