Let’s throw out some well-used HPD clichés.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks when the old ones still work.
If an “old dog” might be a term of endearment for an aging police officer, we can guess that it also must work for a four-legged veteran.
Old Lady Shows How
Sita stands as the “oldest active dog” in Narcotics and everywhere else in the Department. Her recent adventures prove the old dog still knows enough tricks to thwart any million-dollar drug dealer she sniffs out around the Bayou City.
She actually celebrated her 14th birthday early – helping to apprehend two suspects by uncovering the secret backseat void containing almost $1 million of meth. This happened in mid-April. Sita turned 14 on June 9.
It began as a traffic stop on the northwest side. Narcotics Officer and K-9 handler Kristin Uhlin was summoned with her partner, Sita, who started her part of the on-the-scene investigation by advising Uhlin that she was getting the odor of narcotics. Uhlin’s commands were in the Dutch language, which is fairly normal for law enforcement dogs. Plus, suspects can’t command K9s in English – it won’t work.
“She was able to go into the car,” Uhlin explained, “She jumped in for the interior search of the floorboard and backseat. She found the hidden compartment under the backseat that contained six kilos of meth.
“This was a great job, especially at her age. She’s hit numerous seizures totaling millions of dollars. At her age to do this is extraordinary.”
To say “the old lady in Narcotics” sets an example would be somewhat of an understatement. During her latest million-dollar uncovering, Sita showed off for two rookie Narc dogs – Ricky Bobby and Bo – who stood by watching every move and nosy detection.
“When they screw up, you have to get the old lady out to show how it’s done,” Uhlin said proudly. “She has the heart. It’s her body that will give out.”
What a heart and what a law enforcement career the old dog has experienced. Uhlin, who, as head trainer, has trained each one of HPD’s 14 Narcotics officers on four legs. Well, it must be pointed out that she and Sita didn’t become partners until the animal’s first partner retired and Uhlin replaced him.
But back to the strong heart: Over the past 11 years the steadfast Narc dog hasn’t experienced any sick days!
“She goes home with me and lives with me,” Uhlin said. “The city buys her dog foot and pays her vet bills. She’s had no health issues. Right now, her hips are giving her problems. She might be retired at the beginning of 2020.
Worth the Cost
Pressed by the Badge & Gun to name them, the well-trained trainer recited the names of each dog – in alphabetical order, no less.
And they are: Airus, Bingo, Bo, Bolt, Chelsea, Dee, Gero, Frida, Leo, Lola, Nya, Pepper, Ricky Bobby and, of course, Sita. There is an equal number of Shepherds and Belgian Malinois and two “mixes” known as Malheards.
“I actually go with another officer to test them,” Uhlin explained, referring to vendor locales in either Indiana or Florida, “We decide which from a group of 10 to 20 dogs and take a weeklong testing contest to determine what dogs we are bringing back to Houston.
“It’s fun but it’s intense – eight hours a day five days a week.”
Interestingly, there are no K9s in Narcotics that were born in the USA. Most are commanded in the Dutch or Czech languages. Two current K9 Narcs hail from Brazil. Originally, the dogs “speak” a language different from each of their handlers, be they from Narcotics, Patrol or the Bomb Squad.
Uhlin pointed out that a real unsung hero in her dog-eat-suspect world is Senior Police Officer Gary Doyle, a 36-year veteran who has spent about 28 of those years handling HPD K9s.
“He never wants any recognition,” Uhlin said. “He has so much knowledge on the dogs. He’s always doing something for me. We work so well as a team.
“I came into Narcotics and took the head training spot. It’s just a title. He does just as much as I do.”
Uhlin said the work that goes into picking the right dogs for the job is very detailed and time-consuming. The cost of $8,500 to $10,000 per animal is well worth it.
She doesn’t have to sell the city or the Department on the cost.
“They seize that within the first six months on the street.”
From September 2007 until now Sita has seized an estimated $42,729,781.40 of narcotics and $5,980,840.92 in currency.