By Kevin Spradlin
ROCKINGHAM — Rockingham Police Officer J.A. Gilbert said he volunteered to play the role of suspect for Breston and Sgt. Glen Harris on Thursday afternoon at the former Ed Tull Park.
It was, after all, for the kids.
But not many would willingly be the subject of Breston’s teeth and aggression. Breston is a fully certified law enforcement officer. What’s more, the 11-year-old Dutch Shepherd has four feet instead of two and can lunge up to 4 feet towards his subject.
And with his speed and keen sense of smell, it’s unlikely anyone can run — or hide — from the K-9 officer, who has been paired with Sgt. Glen Harris since 2005. Breston has earned the highest certification possible from the International Police Work Dog Association. His talents were on display Thursday afternoon for more than four dozen youth ages 11 to 17 during the fourth day of the five-day Junior Police Academy.
It was hot — sure, that was the reason, and only reason, Gilbert was sweating as he slipped his right arm into a protective sleeve to bare the full brunt and sharpness of Breston’s weight and teeth.
One the kids spoke with no small amount of bravado that caught Harris’ attention.
“This dog runs 35 mph,” Harris told the group for safety purposes as much as anything else. “I don’t think you can run 35 mph. I wouldn’t do anything crazy.”
Breston has been trained to search for cadavers, articles, narcotics — and to be very protective of Harris, who cautioned Gilbert against making any sudden movements once he put on the sleeve. It was game time for Breston, Harris said — but Breston takes his game time very seriously.
“If you get excited, he gets excited,” Harris said. “It’s a game. Remember, everything’s fun for him.”
Thankfully, a couple of short stints of tug-of-war between Breston and Gilbert went smoothly during the demonstration, which was followed by an exercise of finding narcotics hidden in vehicles that Harris had staged before the junior cadets arrived.
During the training exercise with Gilbert as the bad guy, Harris rarely let go of the leash and never when Breston first approached the suspect. In the field, Breston might have been on his own until Harris caught up.