FERRIS

Ferris ISD Police Lt. Jon Julin has gone through the Sector K9 training program each of his past last two years with the district.

Yet, Friday was the first graduation ceremony he attended where he didn’t bring a dog home.

Julin is the handler for two detection dogs at Ferris ISD – both Pitbull mixes and both trained through the Sector K9 training program in Midlothian.

The first dog he got was a narcotics detection dog named K9 Storm in 2017. Last year, he got a second dog named K9 Heat, who was the first weapons detection dog to be produced out of the Sector K9 program.

“She’s trained in the detection of weapons, gunpowder in backpacks,” Sector K9 trainer Wes Keeling said. “She gives an alert by sitting or laying down. Depends on how she feels that day.”

Julin said the last two times he went through the Sector K9 program, he trained with his dogs through a two-week handler course. He said you get to learn about the behavior of your dogs during that time and you learn how they work – just like a partner in the field.

“The very first day, we get to meet our dogs,” Julin recalled. “We get to bond with our dogs, build their trust and continue to build on that throughout the two-week process.”

“We learn how to read the behavior of our dog – to know the different ways they react to searching, different ways to react to alerting to the owner,” he continued. “Each time that I went through it, two weeks was plenty of time to be successful in that process. The dogs work great for me now.”

Julin said both of the dogs stay at home with him and his family in their separate kennels. Every morning when he wakes up to go to work, he decides which one to bring with him on his patrols through Ferris ISD campuses.

“I don’t take them both the same day,” Julin remarked. “But whichever one I take to work, we load up in the K9 unit and we take them to school.”

Julin said even though they’re trained detection dogs, K9 Storm and K9 Heat are well-liked by the students at Ferris ISD campuses. He said it’s common for kids to come out to the hallways to see and pet the dogs.

“We’ll walk them through the hallways,” Julin explained. “Let the kids see them, let the kids pet on them. The kids absolutely love it. They’re kind of like comfort dogs. They’re not trained in it, but they are comfort dogs just because of their demeanor and how chilled out they are.”

The last drug bust Julin could recall was with K9 Storm at Ferris Junior High School, where she found some marijuana in one student’s backpack.

Even then, busts are not common while patrolling with either dog. Julin said the dogs are most useful as a deterrent more than anything else.

“We don’t have that many busts as far as the dogs go, because they’re such big deterrents,” Julin stated. “I’ll just get the dog out and walk around the hallway. I won’t even be running the dog. We’ll just be out walking, and the kids will see it and they’ll know the dog is there every single day and can be deployed at any time.”

He said the parents love the dogs almost as much as the kids do, and they’ll tell Julin all the time how much they appreciate him and K9 Storm and K9 Heat for everything they do on their campuses.

“Having added the dogs to our department makes the parents feel that much safer about their kids coming to school every day – especially when we added the weapons detection dog,” Julin stated. “It adds a sense of security to our school district that other districts don’t have.”

One of the things Julin loves most about the Sector K9 program is how it will reach out to animal shelters across the United States and try to rescue them and give them new purpose as detection dogs.

Julin stated many of the dogs in their program are pit bull mixes. He said that the negative stigma surrounding the pit bull breed is unfair and untrue, as his dogs are among the sweetest animals he's ever owned.

“My narcotics dog was one day away from being euthanized,” Julin stated. “I’ve never even heard her bark. I don’t even know if she can.”

Julin said he’s had nothing but positive experiences with his detection dogs inside and outside of the schools. When he comes home, he and his children will feed them, take them on walks, pet them and play fetch, just like any other house pet.

“They’re not a normal pet, because they’re working dogs,” he expressed. “But then again, they are.”