The Brookings Police Departments newest staff member has been certified and is now on duty sniffing out drugs and meeting the public.

According to Officer Donny Dotson, Robby, the departments K-9, was certified by the state for patrol work Sept. 28 and has been on the job since. Dotson is the dogs handler and partner.

Robby, a 3 1/2-year-old Belgian melinois purchased by the department this summer, has been a quick learner.

Hes very intelligent and sharp, Dotson said. So far Robby has been real successful.

John McKinney, an officer at Pelican Bay State Prison who helps train K-9s for the Brookings Police Department, told Dotson that Robby is an exceptional dog.

John, who has worked with a lot of dogs, says Robby is very intelligent, Dotson said. He picks up on things quickly.

Robby seems to enjoy his narcotics training the most, which he began Oct. 21.

The drug stuff he enjoys the most because to him, its a game, he said. His second favorite is a toss-up between tracking and bite training.

McKinney said that in two weeks the dog would be rockin on drug training, and he was. Hes never finished (training), but hes doing very well.

Robby is trained by officers hiding drug-scented toys (wrapped white wash cloths) and then being turned loose on a search.

During a recent training exercise, Robby hit on two toys within moments of being turned loose in a room. In both cases, the toy was well hidden, completely out of view.

Training sessions are kept real short, Dotson said, because of the impact the training has on the dog.

An hour would be a super long, intensive training session, he said. He works so hard at everything you have him do.

Each kind of training has a different impact on the dog. Using their noses is hard work for the dog.

Ill mix it up, so there is no real rhyme or reason to the pattern of the kind of training we do. And I make sure that after he has been obedient and done his task, that there is time to play as a reward.

One area that Dotson has worked hard with Robby in training has been in social skills.

Robby spent all his life in a kennel until he moved here, he said. So he hasnt had much exposure to people, usually only one at a time.

The first couple of weeks here he was very timid, even around other Brookings Police Department officers.

Although Robby is still getting acclimated to people, Dotson said the K-9 is making good progress.

He definitely is making leaps and bounds interacting with people, he said. Hes warming up to the guys in the department now, he recognizes the uniform.

And hes warming up to people in general too. Its a huge change in his life. Now he is having to deal with 20 to 30 kids at a time.

Part of Robbys duties include public relations for the department, especially with children, Dotson said.

His interaction with kids is real good, he said. Hes not going to run up and jump on you and lick you like your own dog might, but if I say go say hi, hell do it.

Hes very obedient. Ive never seen him show aggression without being told to do so.

Robby and Donny are becoming close friends.

After living his life in a kennel, hes in hog heaven at my place, Dotson said. He gets to sleep next to the bed.

The only time hes outside at the house is when were playing.

Dotson said Robby can be like a little child at times, dependent on the presence of his partner.

He needs me all the time, he said. Robby and I are together all the time.

He goes hunting with me. He goes fishing with me. He goes to work with me.

Robby really enjoys being around me and doesnt like it when Im away from the house for some reason.

Dotson added that in the short time the new K-9 has been on duty, he has already proven to be a valuable asset to the department.

Robby was called out for his first assignment Oct. 6 when patrolling Officer Clint Crane came across an abandoned vehicle that obviously had been stolen and vandalized.

Crane called Dotson, requesting Robby on the scene to track possible suspects or evidence from where the vehicle had been abandoned.

We tracked until we found some evidence, Dotson said. The track was five-hours old, (Robby) was awesome, he made the case.

We are really blessed to have him as a part of our program.

Robby recently had his first opportunity to utilize his narcotics training when the department executed a search at Pelican Bay State Prison.

According to Chief Chris Wallace, prison officials requested that Robby and Wallaces K-9, Hojee, search cells at the California prison. The prison does not have its own K-9.

The prison and Brookings Police Department have a mutual aid agreement, and according to Wallace, the departments K-9s have been called on for narcotics searches at least a half dozen times over the past three years.

Wallace said that Robby did a good job.

Robby worked fine, he said. Hes a hard working dog.

Both dogs had a couple of indicators in a couple of the cells.

Dotson was also pleased with his partners performance.

He did great and worked real hard, he said. I was concerned about the number of distractions, the prison people and a camera crew filming the search for a television program.

But it didnt seem to phase him at all.

Wallace reported on Friday that all the hits by the K-9s were validated by prison staff.

Robby will continue to train with Dotson and the department will continue to utilize the K-9s increasing skills.

And, according to Dotson, Robby seems to be loving his new home, partner and job.