Those who came to meet El Cerrito's new police dog, Koda, at Pet Food Express Sunday found an alert, curious and mostly unperturbed two-year-old who acted as if being the center of attention outside a pet food store on San Pablo Avenue was just a normal day on the job.
Perhaps that's because "normal" for Koda so far has been a succession of new experiences. This past Thursday night, he made his first "arrest" when he caught a suspected burglar hiding in a yard just north of the El Cerrito Plaza BART station parking lot.
Earlier last week, he had just returned from four weeks of drug-detection training in the Santa Rosa area. It was the second training regimen for Koda, who joined the department on March 9.
His public appearance early Sunday afternoon was part of a weekend fundraiser by Pet Food Express to help support police dogs. All proceeds from those who used the $15 pet-washing service go to CoverYourK9.org, which helps provide police canines with bullet-proof vests, heat alarms for patrol cars, first-aid kits and other equipment.
During a Patch visit Sunday to Pet Food Express, Koda's equanimity seemed unbroken, except for one occasion when a tiny black dog about the size of a hamburger walked by on a leash with its owner.
Koda immediately sprang up, extremely keen on going to make contact and at the same time distressed over being restrained by his own leash. His handler, Officer Joshua Del Prado, quickly issued a command in a barely audible voice that Patch interpreted to mean something like, "Cool it."
Koda – who receives commands from Del Prado in Dutch – immediately obeyed. Koda, a Czech German Shepherd, was born in Belgium. This is his first police job.
Several people young and old stopped by to meet the four-legged recruit and ask questions.
One woman was curious about his amazing tracking ability.
"Their sense of smell is about 400 times stronger than ours," Del Prado said. "He follows that odor and goes straight to the source.
"My job," he added, "is to look for the winds."
One of the pet-wash customers inside the store, Kerry Nixon of Berkeley, had come to give her dog, Gotham, a bath at the tiled sinks under a mural of a sparkling clean dog titled, "Cleanliness is next to Dogliness." She said she could have used a store token to pay for it but instead chose to pay the regular fee to help support police dogs.
Asked what kind of dog Gotham is, Nixon said, "A Tri-color Pembroke Welsh Corgi." On receiving a puzzled look from Patch, Nixon added, "Just like the Queen." (We discovered that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the breed preferred by Elizabeth II.)
Meanwhile, as Koda's visit was about to wrap up, Del Prado entered the store to buy a reward for his young charge. He came out with what would be Koda's first segment of deer antler. It cost $32.
"It's supposed to be good for their teeth," Del Prado said, examining the treat with what appeared to be a bit of uncertainty.
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