Y ork countians have been having a good bit of fun at Dargo's expense, and I've certainly contributed to it.
Dargo, of course, is the bomb-sniffing dog in training that is now part of the security team in the York County Sheriff's Department.
A beautiful dog he is. Handsome as all get out. And smart, too.
But he's almost 2 years old, and as of last week, he wasn't housebroken.
So people have been talking about it behind Dargo's back. Cracking jokes. Tweeting and Facebooking and emailing all over the place. Last week, I was a guest speaker before a Lions Club group in southern York County -- about 35 people -- and even they were talking about it.
And to make matters worse, I wrote a column about it.
Dargo, I'm thinking, could not care less what's being said. He doesn't understand English anyway. He's a German shepherd, originally from the Czech Republic, and he only understands German.
His partner, Lt. David M. Godfrey, does understand English, however. He's apparently getting rubbed a little raw about what's being said. If I'm guessing correctly, someone he works with probably rubbed his nose in my column. And he's heard more jokes than he cares to hear about his new partner.
Clearly he doesn't like it -- Godfrey, I mean. He seems to be taking it personally that some of us are questioning -- all in good humor, of course -- the fact that his $6,500 bomb-sniffing dog/partner is not housebroken. Or, at least, wasn't last week.
Anyway, Godfrey's feelings are hurt. Or he's angry. Or both.
He wrote this email to me the day after my column ran last Monday, and in the interest of setting the record straight, he requested it be shared with all of the readers of this column.
So I'll oblige. I don't always do this, but this time I'll make an exception.
I am writing this email in response to your column you wrote in the paper on Monday 5/20/13, "Bomb Sniffing K9 not housebroken?".
I am David Godfrey, Dargo's handler, and he is my partner. I hope that you publish this to correct what you wrote.
In your own past, you ac knowledge it takes time to train dogs. You yourself went to obedience class with your dogs, therefore you under stand that dogs do not mag ically become housebroken when they enter a house for the first time.
If you would have asked me for some information for your (column) I could have explained to you the journey Dargo has taken.
You also stated you are not a dog expert, but you have trained dogs on what they should be expected to do. Dargo, while he is a dog, is being trained. He is not a house pet. Dargo was hand picked and bred for service in law enforcement. He is not only a dog, but my partner. He has to trust me, and I have to trust him.
You also said you expected dogs to be civilized when they live in your house, as do I. Dargo lived his first 18 months in an outside kennel. In the Czech Republic, he was trained in German com mands with a special em phasis on law enforcement needs. Not to be a house pet.
When he arrived in the United States, this continued with specific training on bombs, explosives, scents, odors, and obedience. He was housed in a kennel not a home. He was being taken care of, but house breaking would come when his hand ler, his partner, finally picked him. That way he knows he is at home.
I picked up Dargo on a Friday evening and within 2 days of coming to me, he was picking up his leash and tell ing me when he was ready (to go outside). In less than the week I have had him, he has learned German commands, many complex obedience skills, BEEN HOUSE TRAINED, and has worked on scent training.
Lt. David M. Godfrey
Naturally, this is all good news. Good for Dargo. Very good for Godfrey, because he will be the guy who's going to be cleaning up any pee or poop if Dargo reverts to former habits.
Because one thing I know, old habits die hard in a dog as he/she becomes older. It's easier to housebreak a 12-week-old puppy than it is an almost-2-year-old dog that's gotten used to squatting wherever he feels like it.
And sometimes, when training a dog, it's two steps backward for every step forward.
So we're keeping our fingers crossed that Godfrey and Dargo are making progress.
Dargo's a smart dog, so I'm sure he'll learn his lessons quickly.
I'm thinking he's (Dargo) going to be a valued and trusted member of the York County Sheriff's Department for years to come.
In fact, I'm sure of it.
Welcome to York, Dargo.
We're pleased you're one of us now.
Especially if you've got that housebreaking thing squared away.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.