Veteran K-9 to retire after almost 8 years of service

California Highway Patrol officer Rich Cheever plays tug-o-war with his canine, Flash, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, in front of the Newhall division offices on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Flash has dedicated his life to fending off bad guys, uncovering drugs, finding cash and locating weapons. The 8-year-old Belgian Malinois has spent his career working alongside agencies and officers throughout Los Angeles County.

At the end of March, the K-9 will retire from his post to live a calmer life at home with his handler and partner California Highway Patrol Officer Rich Cheever.

“His first favorite thing to do is bite bad guys and the second is to smell cash and drugs,” Cheever said.

Flash is one of four K-9 units in Los Angeles County and one of 45 throughout the state. The six-legged pair is responsible for assisting 10 area offices within L.A. County.

Flash, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois,in the back of his handler’s patrol car at the California Highway Patrol Newhall division on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“These dogs are smart,” CHP Officer Josh Greengard said. “He always knows what he’s going after…These dogs are working 24/7.”

Flash first came to the agency in July 2011 before completing 11 weeks of training with Cheever at the Sacramento Police Academy.

The canine training included everything from patrol training, where officers search for individuals who run from the police, to narcotics identification.

As soon as his patrol vehicle’s door opens, Flash heads back inside. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“Their noses are at least 10,000 times stronger than ours… he was taught how to keen in on that sense,” Cheever said.

Cheever said K-9 dogs, like Flash, are taught to associate the odors of various drugs—like cocaine, meth and marijuana—with play during their training.

“We start off playing with the towel and then the dog associates that odor with play,” Cheever said. “Then we take away the towels and they find drugs.”

To this day, Cheever continues to train Flash for eight hours each week and completes dope training with him each day.

Flash leads the way back into the parking lot of the California Highway Patrol’s Newhall division on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“Training is fun for him and it’s skill keeping,” Cheever said. “He never sits down and is full of energy.”

And all of the hard work has paid off. In his eight years of service Flash has inspected 204 residences, 42 businesses and 918 vehicles.

He has found $18,052,124 in cash, assisted in 238 arrests, recovered 14 guns and discovered 6,772.621 pounds of marijuana, 202,405 pounds of heroin, 1,679.26 pounds of meth and 2,538.7 pounds of cocaine.

In 2010, during one of his most notable recoveries, Flash canvassed an embankment area off Soledad Canyon Road on the northbound 14 freeway for more than an hour after a suspect collided head-on with a patrol vehicle and ran from officers, according to Greengard.

California Highway Patrol canine Flash, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, is retiring from the service at the end of March. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“Flash was running around and found him,” Greengard said. “The suspect punched Flash a few times in the face before he was detained.”

Cheever noted that the officers do not choose to deploy the dogs unless it is a serious offense and if suspects do not respond to other methods and commands.

The K-9 unit’s main role is to assist field officers; however, the unit also works at traffic stops and completes demonstrations for local schools.

Eight-year-old Belgian Malinois Flash runs by his handler, Officer Rich Cheever, at the California Highway Patrol Newhall division offices on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“We’ve done several hundred demos for school aged kids,” Cheever said. “They love seeing that.”

When Flash retires on March 31, Cheever will purchase the dog for $1 from the department and bring him home right before his ninth birthday in April.

“When he retires he’ll stay with us,” Cheever said.

Cheever plans to partner with another K-9 in April and continue training dogs to be as successful and steadfast as Flash.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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