By Melissa Lampert
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department K-9 deputy and her detection dog, “Stack,” appeared on the latest “Santa Clarita Sheriff Talk” on KHTS AM-1220.
Santa Clarita resident Deputy Amy Raniag joined the department’s Transit Policing Division K-9 unit after serving as a field training officer in Compton for four years.
“Working with the K-9s is, I would have to say, probably the best job on the department,” Raniag said. “I saw the K-9 when I was an Explorer, and I just knew that I wanted to work with the K-9.”
Before she was assigned her energetic black labrador retriever, Stack, Raniag spent 10 weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas — which she called the “main hub” for military working dogs — for K-9 training.
“Basically you’re learning how to be a dog handler,” she said. “They pair you up with a dog and they teach you from the basics.”
Detection dogs are trained to sniff out the scent of a specific item, which can range from explosives to alcohol to narcotics to cell phones.
“The best analogy I could give you is if you have a cup of black coffee and we all smell it, we can tell it’s just a cup of black coffee,” Raniag explained, noting that a dog’s nose is completely different than a human’s.
“If you add, say, maybe a tablespoon or two of sugar into it, we could probably tell or smell that it’s been sweetened with something,” she continued. “If you take those same two tablespoons of sugar and drop them into, say, two Olympic-sized swimming pools, that canine will be able to tell the difference.”
At the start of the training process, deputies conduct a game of “hide and seek” with the dog’s favorite toy, and once the canine is able to use their nose to find their toy, deputies introduce the item the dog is training to identify and repeat the “game,” instead using the toy as a reward.
“They’re smelling the stimuli, and they know that, ‘Hey, I get my toy when I smell that stimuli, so I’m going to give a response so I get my toy,” Raniag said.
Raniag was recently dispatched to an incident at the Pomona Metrolink Station with Stack by her side for a report of a suspicious package.
As the bomb squad worked to render the package safe, Raniag and Stack teamed up with other K-9 teams to search the station for additional possible explosives.
“We work with the Threat Interdiction Unit — TIU — which is a specialized team that also has a lot of the training that we have, and then we also work with our bomb squad,” Raniag said. “Because we constantly train and we do a lot of joint training, we actually are pretty good at getting it handled pretty quickly to get those rail stations opened.”
Though Stack technically belongs to the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, he lives with Raniag at her home in Santa Clarita so they can build their bond with one another.
“I have to trust him, he has to trust me,” she said. “It takes awhile, it’s just a lot of rapport, walks, brushing him, grooming him, just spending a lot of time with him, letting him be a dog. A lot of that stuff, you start to build that trust, and then it continues on into training.”
“Santa Clarita Sheriff Talk” on KHTS AM-1220 is sponsored by All American Bail Bonds in Santa Clarita.
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