Sometimes good things really do come to those who wait.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Ian D’Cuhna has been involved with the Sheriff’s K9 program since 2008 and often thought about taking on a dog of his own, but the timing just wasn’t right. With family obligations including two young children at home, there just wasn’t enough time to go around.
Work in the K9 program is not a nine-to-five job, going home for the day does not mean the job is done. In fact, sustained interaction with the dog continues at home and is often what really makes the team successful.
“Earlier in my career I couldn’t make that kind of commitment,” said D’Cuhna. “Now that I’m towards the end of my career, this is really the last thing I want to do.”
Twelve years later the timing was finally right. In November D’Cuhna was united with his first four-legged partner, Vern, a two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever. The pair took part in a sixteen-week training program at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, before returning to the Sacramento International Airport
(SMF) to continue their certification process. While at Lackland, Deputy D’Cunha was named Distinguished Graduate for that class. After two weeks of additional training at SMF, the team was certified on Jan. 24.
“We are excited to welcome Ian and Vern to our K9 program here at SMF,” said Cindy Nichol, Sacramento County Department of Airports Director. “Our K9 teams play a very important role in the safety and security of our passengers and employees here at the Airport.”
Next up for the duo is continuing to build on their skills as a team.
“It takes a good two years for a team to get into the sweet spot,” said D’Cuhna. “A level where the dog is automatically searching and the handler can read everything the dog is doing and pick up on the subtle things.”
Getting to that level is a vital part of the security program at SMF.
“These K9 units are not the only layer of security here,” said D’Cuhna. “They’re just one layer, but we can deploy them to just about anywhere at the airport and even across Sacramento County.”
Like most Labradors, Vern loves people and of course food.
“He loves mealtime, and I really have to hold him back because he’s so social,” said D’Cuhna. “He loves people and he’s become so comfortable with me that wherever I go he wants to be there too.”
That being said, Vern knows when it’s time to get to work.
“All of the training put into this is what separates him from just being a family pet,” said D’Cuhna. “He knows as soon as we get to the airport it’s time to work. He knows he’s going to get his reward and it’s going to be a fun day. The whole program is designed to make work the most exciting thing to him.”