The El Dorado Police Department welcomed a new officer in November - Shakira.
The 3-year-old Dutch Shepherd K-9 recently became fully certified in narcotics.
Shakira’s training officer is Lt. Scott Wayne Amspaugh. She will become part of Amspaugh’s family and will undergo constant training until she retires.
The purchase of Shakira would not have been possible without financial help from local organizations and businesses, including Delek US - El Dorado Refinery.
K-9s can cost a department up to $20,000 just for the initial purchase. Last year, the El Dorado Police Department sent out letters asking local businesses and organizations for financial help to be able to acquire the new police dog.
Delek US - El Dorado Refinery responded, and contributed the remaining funds that were needed to purchase Shakira.
Love: Lt. Scott Wayne Amspaugh, Shakira’s handler, shows her love.
“We are very fortunate in El Dorado and Union County that we have so many partners in the community as either businesses, individuals or organizations that are willing to step up and help us,” Captain Kevin Holt said. “K-9s are an expensive tool that we use and we try not to burden the city budgets. We want to make sure that the community knows that this is something that is utilized for them.”
In addition from the initial cost to purchase the K-9s, the department invests countless dollars and hours for training, which the city funds.
“We’re fortunate that Delek (US - El Dorado Refinery) made such a great contribution to go along with others in the community so that we were able to acquire this K-9,” Holt said.
Shakira was born in Czechoslovakia and responds to commands in Dutch. She has a bloodline dating back to World War II, Amspaugh said.
Shakira was purchased out of Little Rock and she has been in Amspaugh’s care since November.
“She’s been in the United States since November. The trainer in Little Rock, who imprinted her on narcotics, had her for two weeks and then I took over from there,” Amspaugh said. “This is my second dog, so I’m taking the lead on this and doing all of the training myself.”
As of Feb. 19, Shakira is fully trained in narcotics in Arkansas. Amspaugh said she performed excellent and he couldn’t have asked for anything better. She went to Tennessee last week to hone in more on narcotics and get her custom certification.
Her next challenge will be to work on her bite work, handler protection and article searches. Amspaugh will also work on bettering her obedience.
“She is hard headed,” he said. “Usually I can get a dog to at least heel within a couple of days. I’ve been working with her for a month and I still can’t get her to heel right.”
Donation: From left, Liz Mattern, executive administrative assistant at Delek US - El Dorado Refinery, Shakira, EPD K-9, Lt. Scott Wayne Amspaugh and Tamara Garrison, health & safety manager Delek US - El Dorado Refinery. Delek US - El Dorado Refinery contributed remaining funds that were needed to purchase Shakira, the new K-9 officer at the EPD.
Shakira’s temperament is described as very independent. There will be a lot of training in the next six months, and Amspaugh said she will be a completely different dog.
“The biggest part was the dope (certification), and we got that over with,” he said. “She came out of the certification with high standards and we’re just moving forward from this point.”
Being in charge of a K-9 officer is a full-time job. Amspaugh has been a K-9 handler for almost 10 years, and in that time, he hasn’t had a break, he said.
Shakira will be in Amspaugh’s care until he retires and he said that this is his project until then.
The El Dorado Police Department currently has three dogs and are trying to get one more. The department has four shifts and Amspaugh’s goal is to have one K-9 for each shift.
K-9s are essential for the police department because they can do things that humans can’t.
“When you had a car you thought had dope in it, you couldn’t say ‘send me a K-9,’” Holt said. “You got down on your hands and knees with your flashlight and got to looking for it. Now you can have a K-9 come up and he’s going to alert it so you know it’s in there, but it’s still your job to find it.”
The K-9s are not only beneficial to the El Dorado Police Department, but also to surrounding counties and communities, Holt said. “If we can prevent a problem over there, then it prevents problems here,” he said.
Most K-9s work for about 10 years. One issue the department found over the years is the toll getting in and out of a higher vehicle has on a K-9. They now use lower vehicles, which is much easier on their joints.
Catcher: Capt. Kevin Holt throws a ball while Shakira jumps in the air to catch it.
Also, nutrition has improved over the years, so the dogs are getting healthier food that helps strengthen their joints, allowing them to work longer.
The El Dorado High School tennis team also contributes to the K-9 program, donating old tennis balls for the dogs. The department used to have old towels they would use as play toys. The tennis team has donated several hundred tennis balls towards the program.
Shakira’s ball drive and hunt drive is out of this world, Amspaugh said. In six to eight months, she will be off the leash and more controllable.
She started training on tracking in February and is able to track someone in a forest up to 600 yards.
“She is going to have a good life here,” Amspaugh said. “She is going to be well used because of her hunt drive. She’s doing real good.”
Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org