New partner in county K-9 unit

Staff writer

Sheriff’s officer Travis Wilson has a new partner who does not respond to Wilson if he tries to converse with her in English.

Cossta is a three-year old female Belgian Malinois who became Wilson’s K-9 partner in November. She responds only to commands in German.

“She was trained by an international trainer and then, after I got her, she and I went to Longford for a specialized three-week course where we learned to work together,” Wilson said.

Cossta replaces Dax, who retired this past fall and now spends his days as a family pet with the Wilsons. Dax had similar training and talents, but now has arthritis and cataracts.

“Most of the dogs give eight to 10 years of service,” Wilson said. “They have a daily workout and serve with their police officer partner every time he or she goes out.”

Cossta came to the county at a cost of $12,500. Wilson raised the funds to purchase her—it did not come out of the county law enforcement budget.

“The cities of Marion and Hillsboro each have a dog, but Cossta serves the rest of the county. I got donations from county businesses, individuals, and organizations, the Peabody-Burns school system and recreation commission, the city of Peabody, from drug tax stamps, various diversion funds, and a grant for K-9 units,” he said.

“Cossta is a great dog,” he said. “She is friendly, especially with kids, but she knows when it is time to work.”

Wilson said she always minds and ranks “strong” in her obedience, tracking, and narcotics work. She is trained to alert him to the presence of marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.

“If we are working evidence recovery and she finds something, she lowers herself down on it and won’t move off of it until I give the command,” he said.

Wilson said when she is tracking a fleeing suspect she doesn’t necessarily follow the scent of the person, but she follows the trail the suspect leaves.

“She sniffs out that thing that is not normal, that is out of place,” he said. “Whether it is grass crushed by the heel of a shoe or a fresh disturbance in the dirt or gravel, that is what she is looking for. She is really very good at it.”

Cossta has one reward for doing her job well. Wilson lets her play with a small hard rubber ball on a short thick rope.

“The reward is a matter of conditioning with K-9 unit dogs. It is the only thing they get when they have performed well,” he said. “Some dogs get a knotted towel or a different kind of rubber toy. They learn to identify the object as praise for doing a good job.”

Cossta has adjusted well to her job. Belgian Malinois are an active breed they enjoy work and the challenge of doing their jobs. “They are an intelligent breed with a high energy level,” Wilson said. “Cossta loves to work.

“She is a great partner!”

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