Published 11:48 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Third grade students at Andalusia Elementary School received a special visit from a distinguished member of the Andalusia Police Department Wednesday afternoon.
Vitou, a 12-year-old Belgian Malinois who has served as a drug enforcement dog for the Andalusia Police Department for several years, visited AES Wednesday afternoon along with his caretaker, APD K-9 officer Scott Watkins.
Watkins told the students that Vitou has been a great asset to the APD.
“When Vitou was young he ran with a vehicle beside him and was clocked at approximately 45 miles per hour on the vehicle’s speedometer,” Watkins said. “Vitou has been trained with a toy. When he searches for drugs in vehicles and other places he is working to receive his toy. When you (as a child) are good, then you receive an award. Sometimes you are given a new toy. It is the same for Vitou. He works really hard to find drugs because he knows that he will be rewarded with a toy.”
Watkins assured students that Vitou was very friendly and would not bite unless given the command.
“He absolutely loves to play and he loves children,” Watkins said. “I want to ask everyone to be quiet because if it gets too loud then Vitou will get excited and he will want to play. I have a 6-year-old who plays with Vitou all the time.”
Watkins said that Vitou was trained with German commands and only responds to commands issued in that language.
“When I say ‘nein’ it is the same as telling him ‘no,’ ” Watkins said. “I can also tell him to ‘stay’ with the German command ‘bleib.’ We also use the command ‘such’ to tell him to search or track.”
Students were also given the opportunity to ask questions about drugs and police dogs like Vitou. Many students wondered if Vitou had ever hurt a suspect he was sent to subdue.
“He has chased and restrained several suspects during his career,” Watkins said. “He has only drawn blood once while biting someone. The person attempted to hurt Vitou and that made him angry.”
Watkins urged students to choose a drug-free lifestyle and provided tips for handling situations were drugs are offered.