MUSCATINE, Iowa–Earlier this year, Pocket, a seven-month-old Belgium Malinois puppy then known as Payton, came to It Takes a Village Animal Rescue and Resources as part of an ongoing transfer program between the rescue and a shelter in Oklahoma. After Pocket arrived in Muscatine, she went to Jessie Ng, one of It Takes a Village’s regular foster volunteers.
When Ng brought Pocket home, she noticed right away the puppy’s intelligence and focus on learning commands. It took Ng only one try to teach Pocket the signal to get in her crate, and she played fetch with a drive and intensity above and beyond even the most playful of puppies. When Ng placed Pocket’s Kong ball a little ways up a tree, the puppy eagerly jumped to get it, even though it represented quite a challenge. Familiar with how to screen puppies to find potential working dogs, Ng tried some hunting tests with her, and saw the sort of high energy and focus on finding hidden toys that tends to distinguish working dogs. Thinking Pocket might benefit from a placement as a working dog, she reached out to Jenny Lea Wyffels, a canine behavior consultant and trainer who runs Cooperative Canine Concepts + K911, which among other things, provides training for police dogs.
Wyffels agreed to do more testing with Pocket, having her hunt for balls in a number of different environments. Like Ng, Wyffels found that Pocket had a lot of motivation when it came to hunting, and that she did well in many different settings. After working with her, Wyffels decided to adopt Pocket and train the dog, alongside her other rescue dog, Tugboat, as a narcotics detection canine. Once finished with training, Pocket will work with law enforcement officers to try to find suspected cashes of hidden illegal narcotics in various places. In a statement to the media, Wyffels said: “Pocket showed environmental stability, sociability, good drive, and extreme tenacity in her desire to hunt for a ball. Being a rescue was an additional bonus, as she is everything we like to represent as ambassadors for rescue going in to working placement.”
Though several of It Takes a Villages’ dogs have received evaluation to serve a working dogs, Pocket represents the first to make the transition into a career. Because high energy dogs who require constant mental stimulation to lead happy and fulfilled lives often do better as working dogs than as family pets, It Takes a Village Founder Meagan Koehler could not feel more pleased about Pocket getting selected as a narcotics detection canine: “For a dog like Pocket, this placement is best case scenario. We are so proud of her!”