The back seat of a police car is usually reserved for troublemakers.
But for McPherson police officer Richard Rogers, it's reserved for his four-legged furry partner, Bruno.
The duo have been working together for about one and a half years and spoke to Roosevelt Elementary second-graders Tuesday. The visit was part of a unit surrounding the book “Officer Buckle and Gloria” by Peggy Rathmann, which describes the partnership of a K-9 unit.
Rogers spoke to about 60 students regarding he and Bruno’s roles on and off the police force. Afterward, students were shown the patrol car and some of the commands Bruno responds to while on duty.
Bruno is an 8-year-old German shepherd who was trained in the Kansas City area. His parents were from Germany, and Bruno responds to commands in that language.
His main duty is to find drugs and track humans. With his sensitive snout, he can detect marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroine. He also is able to track down individuals who are running away from law enforcement, children who are lost and older adults who are disoriented. Bruno also calms many situations by merely being present.
The pair works in McPherson County, as well as several other surrounding counties.
“The dog is so awesome at what he does,” Rogers told students. “His sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than any of ours.”
The McPherson Police Department has had K-9 units in the past, but the program was discontinued. When another program became available, however, Rogers applied and was selected for it. Rogers is the only officer to have a dog partner for the city of McPherson, but often works with a similar duo at the McPherson County Sheriffs Department.
In order to work together, Rogers had to receive certification and become familiar with Bruno. Bruno already had been serving as a police dog.
Rogers said Bruno treats him well, but he isn't friendly toward other humans or dogs, as that is how he was taught to behave. Bruno will attack others who show any sign of playful or intentional aggression toward Rogers, for example. For this reason, Rogers advised students not to call his name or run up to him if they see him in the community.
“There is a strong bond between Bruno and I,” Rogers said. “Due to this unconditional loyalty, he would give his life to save me or another officer.”
When the pair is off duty, Rogers brings Bruno to his home. He does not do tricks or receive treats like normal pet dogs, however.
“When we go to work, that's when he's so excited because he knows that's his play time,” Rogers said.
Page 2 of 2 - After Rogers’ presentation, the second-graders received badge stickers. They also discussed how the lives of the McPherson officers and the characters in the book were similar and different. This supplemented their two-week unit regarding policemen vocabulary and safety.
“I was trying to bring meaning to what they were reading and learning,” Kelsey Otto, second-grade teacher, said. “I thought connecting it with real life would make it more meaningful for them.”
During the unit, second-grader Maleah Yianakopulos said she learned to always find a buddy if she was going to be by herself. She also said being safe is important so people don't get hurt.
MJ Andes, second-grader, said he learned a dog has to listen to his trainer.
“I think they really enjoyed him coming,” Otto said of Rogers’ visit. “It's always fun to see them excited about what they're learning. This one I got to see them get very excited.”
Contact Jenae Pauls at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel