CRESTVIEW — For one of the two partners in the Crestview Police Department’s newest K9 unit training in Northport, Alabama, the daily drills and instruction are a case of "been there, done that, got the collar."
K9 Officer Kody had already been through the 12-week course before with his previous partner, Officer Shane Kriser. When Kriser left the Crestview Police Department to return with his family to eastern Florida, Ofc. Nate Marlar immediately jumped at the chance to become a K9 officer.
Appointing him as the agency’s newest K9 handler was easy for Chief Tony Taylor. In addition to Marlar’s love of dogs — German shepherd dogs, in particular — he and his own shepherd, Freke, socialized with Kriser and Kody regularly, getting along well together.
However, when Kody first switched to his new partner, he gave Marlar a nip on the hand just to remind him who the alpha dog was. But upon his return to the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Officer's Training Center, Kody promptly settled into the correct human-dog dynamic with his new partner.
"No more issues with understanding who is pack leader," Marlar said. "He just wasn't in Chief (Tony) Taylor’s office when I got the job and at first he didn't know I’d be the senior partner."
"They need to do a lot of bonding to work effectively as a team," Taylor said. "It’s critical when they’re out on the street and the pressure’s on."
Living, playing, relaxing and working together during the 12-week training program and afterward are integral to forming and maintaining the relationship of a functioning K9 unit, Marlar said.
"We are best buds already and spending a lot of time hanging out and bonding," he said.
Though Kody — Marlar has nicknamed him "Freddy" — has extensive training and experience, his human partner is a first-time K9 officer and both partners need to train together to effectively do their duties. From his more than three years of experience on the streets of Crestview, Kody is ahead of other dogs in their class.
"K9 Officer Freddy and I are learning how to detect and locate narcotics odor as well as how to track fugitives — and anyone else — through various terrains and environments," Marlar reported during a break between exercises.
"We are also practicing K9 handler protection drills and apprehension protocol to maximize the safety of the public as well as the officers of Crestview PD," he said. "We are eager to get back home and get to work!"
Vigorous training is nothing new to either officer. Marlar, a U.S. Navy veteran, is also a member of the Police Department’s S.W.A.T. team. And Kody, like his fellow Crestview Police K9s Hero and Sonic, trains weekly with his partner when he’s on duty.
Kody, like Sonic, is classified as a "dual-purpose" dog, in that he performs detection, tracking and protection duties. While in Alabama, he’s helping his new partner learn how to give him the commands he needs to do his job.
"This will check a lot of boxes in serving the community as we will be able to remove narcotics from the street and locate dangerous fugitives, as well as preserve officer and public safety in the process," Marlar said.
"Kody is a great partner and we are working hard to ensure we are able to serve Crestview to the fullest extent possible," he said.
"This is definitely my dream job and I'm super stoked to have been selected to handle such an outstanding K9!"