K-9 officer doesn’t make the grade

Cash, the would-be K-9 officer whose training was canceled last month, stands before Cannon Beach Police Officer Josh Gregory, center left, who is displaying a $2,500 donation check from Helping Hands. Also pictured: Michael Easter, Helping Hands operations director, far left; Cannon Beach Police Officer Chris Wilbur, center right; Christopher Crone, Helping Hands outreach manager; and Cash.

CANNON BEACH — Before the little fella had seen any action or gained any glory, the Cannon Beach Police Department chose to dismiss its K-9 officer, Cash, in early October.

The 2-year-old Belgian Malinois “ended up not being a good fit,” Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn said.

Before Cash completed his training with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, he was returned to his original owner, Tami Schultz of Clatsop County Search and Rescue, in Astoria.

The department acquired Cash after raising $27,000 for the K-9 officer program earlier this year.

By January, the department hopes to have a new canine, possibly a Labrador, fully certified and ready to be put to work. It will come to the force already trained to sniff out drugs (not including marijuana) and perform ground tracking for search-and-rescue operations before being handed over to Officer Josh Gregory, Cash’s former handler.

They’re looking for a “ball-crazy, happy, wanting-to-work dog,” said Gregory, who will spend two to three weeks training with the dog after taking it into his care. “(We) basically learn how to dance together.”

All of the community support for the K-9 officer program remains in place, Schermerhorn said.

The owners of a local store, Dogs Allowed Cannon Beach, pledged to donate all of the dog food for the life of the program. Robert Remensnyder, a veterinarian at the Seaside Pet Clinic, said he would provide routine care for the K-9 officer at his own expense.

When Cash’s replacement is certified, it will be the only narcotics dog in Clatsop County and may be used by other law enforcement agencies, such as those in Tillamook County.

Gregory said he’s sorry for the time delay and thanked the community for being patient. Once the department finally has its K-9 officer — which will be considered the department’s ninth officer — “this is going to be a great (resource).”

Gregory and the Washington County trainer tried to train Cash for four weeks, between September and October, before giving up on him.

“Where other dogs were progressing, he wasn’t progressing,” Gregory said.

Cash, it turned out, was fairly skittish, afraid of heights and had a barking problem. “Anything that would make noise would scare him,” Gregory said. “He would shut down.”

When the canine had to jump onto counters in search of drugs, he showed too much resistance.

“Outside, he was a totally different dog,” Gregory said.

But even when Cash found drugs outdoors, he would often just start barking aggressively rather than go straight to the source. Barking is “fine as an alert, but you can’t get anything done when you’re trying to get him to find dope and he’s just barking in your face.”

“That’s not the temperament we wanted to set for Cannon Beach,” Schermerhorn said.

Luckily, Cash’s limitations were noticed sooner rather than later.

“We had grown close to him, especially Josh and his family,” Schermerhorn said. Unfortunately, when there’s a defect in a would-be K-9 officer — high hopes be darned — it’s better to start over with a new one. “That’s the name of the game.”

Gregory misses Cash, he said, but he always knew it was a possibility that Cash might not work out.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about how long we got along together,” he said. “It’s about doing the job, and he just wasn’t able to do the job. So here we are.”