July 18 will mark a special birthday in the University of Washington Police Department.
That’s the day Kali turns 8.
Kali is a chocolate Labrador retriever, born in 2004 at the home of a breeder in Kelso. As a puppy, she was purchased as a family pet but, for unknown reasons, was in need of rescue around the time she was 2.
Pacific Coast K-9, a business that selects dogs specifically for police, detection and security work, noticed that Kali had that special energy and personality to be successful in explosive detection and took her in, trusting that before long a law enforcement agency would be interested.
In 2007, the UWPD received a federal Homeland Security grant to create an Explosive Detection K-9 unit. Before that, the department relied on the Washington State Patrol and other police agencies for explosive detection dogs for building sweeps and dignitary protection details.
Officer Kenny Johns was selected as UWPDs first K-9 handler and attended the 14-week K-9 Academy training at the State Patrol Academy in Shelton. He had to learn how to select a K-9 and was paired with Kali for required testing.
The tests measured Kalis reaction to loud noises such as gunfire, her ability to ignore food while working, her ability to walk on slick or unusual floor surfaces, her reaction to intense surprises such as an umbrella suddenly opening, her demeanor around crowds of people, and numerous other traits and abilities required of explosive detection dogs. Kali passed the tests with flying colors, then was taught to detect more than 15 different odors associated with explosives.
On Valentine’s Day in 2007, Kali was officially sworn in as UWPDs first Explosive Detection K-9. Among her successful searches was one in which she located three handguns that then were taken off the street.
In one case, she was called to assist the Seattle Police Department after a suspect who ran from police threw a gun into some bushes. The human officers were unable to locate the weapon but Kali found it. In another case, Johns was taking Kali outside from a crowded event for a bathroom break when she walked over to a man standing at the gate and sat down next to him. That was her way of alerting her handler that she had detected the odor of explosives. The man was carrying a concealed handgun.
Kali has been loaned to many agencies for bomb sweeps, sporting events (including Seahawks games), dignitary protection, and even a sweep of the landing zone for Marine One when President Obama visited Seattle. Kali’s simple reward is getting to retrieve her ball, which she and her handler know as her “paycheck.”
As an ambassador for rescue dogs and law enforcement K-9s, Kali attends public education events to demonstrate her skills. In addition to questions about her work as an explosive detection dog, people routinely wonder about her personal life. She weighs 80 pounds and eats veterinarian-recommended, natural dog food. She also enjoys occasional treats, with Bully Sticks among her favorites. Her favorite off-duty activities include retrieving anything – not surprising, since she is a retriever. She is skilled at catching Frisbees and will turn any object into a dog toy.
Kali lives with Johns and his family, and sleeps in a comfortable dog bed. She has an easygoing personality and always tries to play with houseguests. She is extremely loyal and protective of her family and the house. On one occasion she even alerted the family to a car being broken into in the neighborhood.
Like the UWPD Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/UWPolice – to be notified of Kalis appearances in explosive-detection demonstrations.