Canines on the Case, at UNCG

Late one night, Sergeant Marcus Graves was patrolling the Oakland Avenue parking lot with his canine Jax when he came noticed a student crawling on her hands and knees through the grass.

“It was dark and she had lost her key,” said Sgt. Graves. “It’d take me and her hours to search the grass so I gave Jax the command and he found it in a minute.”

Sgt. Graves, who’s served with the UNCG Police Department since 2005, has partnered with the Belgian Malinois since 2009. The two share not only the same birthday and a friendship but a strong working relationship, as well. While Sgt. Graves offers Jax a kennel at his own home, the canine offers his keen sense of smell.

“You know whenever a rock hits the water and there’s that ripple? That effect is not unlike what Jax is sensing,” said Sgt. Graves. “There’s human odor on those keys. But the longer it sits, the harder it is to locate. He could also be sniffing for something that’s out of place.”

According to Sgt. Graves, 95 percent of the K9 unit’s duties involve narcotics and traffic stops. At other times the City of Greensboro might use the duo for article searches or tracking a suspect. On top of that, Jax and Sgt. Graves offer public demonstrations about four or five times a month.

Jax is one of three dogs that make up UNCG PD’s K-9 unit. The other two, Sasha and Tink – a Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, respectively – make up the complete unit.

Jax is trained in Schutzhund, a German dog-training technique that emphasizes selective breeding and requires rigorous training. Like many police dogs trained in Schutzhund, Jax was imported from a European breeder and takes commands in German. Importing from selective breeders means that Jax has the right temperament for police work and is less likely to suffer physical ailments such as hip dysplasia. But at 9 years old, Jax is beginning to show signs of aging.

He still likes his red ball and is as hardworking as ever, but now he wants to be petted. Jax’s retirement is still some ways off, but when the day comes, Sgt. Graves said that there will always be a place for the canine at his home.

“He’s family,” said Sgt. Graves.

By Daniel Wirtheim
Photo: Jax and Sergeant Graves at a demonstration on UNCG Field Day

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