CRESTVIEW — The Walker Elementary School student council recently had a visit from someone who’s fast becoming a good friend of the Owls. Sonic, a Crestview Police K9 officer, and his human partner, Ofc. Jay Seals, were special guests at the meeting.
The student council’s major community service project this year is raising funds for a fourth police K9 unit, and the kids were eager to learn as much as they can about police dogs before starting to solicit donations.
During a briefing before Ofc. Seals and Sonic gave a K9 demonstration, they learned that having just three K9 units — a unit being the human officer and his or her dog partner — leaves one of the agency’s four shifts without a K9 and can delay investigations while an off-duty team is summoned.
Ofc. Seals described Sonic’s training, which after a 13-week course at a K9 academy in Alabama, includes weekly lessons, often with other Crestview Police K9 teams.
The students learned about Sonic’s many talents, including his power of scent. While a typical human has about 6 million scent receptors, Sonic has around 350 million, which means he can sniff out a target odor, such as illegal narcotics, even if a suspect tries to camouflage the drugs in an "odor noisy" environment.
Sonic demonstrated his powers by sniffing out simulated Ecstasy that had been hidden in a storage drawer in council adviser Elizabeth Springle’s fifth-grade classroom. As a reward, Sonic received the chance to chew on a favorite play toy.
"That was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the majority of the students," Springle said after the demonstration.
The students then described their fundraiser ideas to the officers. The drive to raise about $15,000 for the new dog begins when the Owls return from Thanksgiving vacation Nov. 27. That’s when schoolwide "change wars" get underway, in which classrooms challenge each other to raise the most money in change.
"Classrooms that raise the most will get a popsicle party or maybe a pizza party," one of the council members said.
The students also plan to fan out around town and canvass local businesses for support.
"We noticed that the police dogs are a good thing," student council member Maureen Neiman, a fifth-grader, said. "When we see we can help out somewhere, we do the best that we can."
If the fundraiser is a success, the Crestview Police Department has promised to name the new K9 officer "Walker."
The campaign got off to a good start even before it officially began. Okaloosa County school board member Tim Bryant, who represents the north end of the county and sat in on the meeting, promptly pledged $50 and praised the students for being involved in their community.