By Matthew O. Stephens
Cheney Free Press 

Tale of a Legend: Airway Heights K-9 officer retires

Editor’s note: The full story did not run in last week’s Cheney Free Press. Below is the article in its entirety.

 

Last updated 5/5/2022 at 8:27am



AIRWAY HEIGHTS —After serving the community of Airway Heights for five years, Legend, a K-9 narcotics officer for the police department, retired on his last day of duty on April 4.

According to his handler, Cpl. Dennis Bachman, it is a well-deserved retirement, although a bittersweet transition. Bachman, who has 13 years with the department, said it was hard to switch gears after serving together for five years, partnering to keep the streets as drug-free as possible.

“That dog is still so high drive he doesn’t know what to do when he wakes up,” Bachman said. “When I went to work the first day without him, he got frustrated and was howling at me from his kennel.”

The training the K-9 units go through is deeply ingrained, and the dogs never forget the imprinted drugs, according to the Corporal. Bachman also explained that Legend, like many other narcotics dogs, is a rescue that can pass specific criteria.


According to Bachman, if the dogs are friendly enough to work with people, walk around on almost any surface, and have a high play drive, they can be trained and imprinted to smell various narcotics.

“Legend was about 3 or 4 when he was found on the streets of Seattle and was taken in and trained to serve the South Bend Police Department in 2015,” Bachman said. “Then his handler transferred to another department and Legend was basically their pet through the following year. I tested for our new K-9 position in 2016 and went into training with Legend in 2017.”

The Corporal explained that training the handlers to work with the dogs is one of the most extensive training obstacles because the officers want to be right behind the K-9. He described the importance of having patience when working with a K-9 unit.


“It’s not the dog you have to worry about training so much,” Bachman said. “It’s the guy on the other end of the leash. You have to be able to let the dog do their job before rushing right in behind them.”

Bachman also explained how Legend was already imprinted to smell heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine before coming to Airway Heights. But he got to witness the process when Legend was imprinted for marijuana.

“It was instantaneous,” Bachman said. “They introduced him to the new smell and then went and placed a training package in hiding. Legend went right to the spot and was sitting at alert waiting for his partner.”

The Corporal noted Legend’s motivation is one of the reasons the two were paired together. He said dogs are also paired with handlers by personality.

Bachman recalled one of the early moments that highlighted Legend’s career.

“I thought I was watching something out of a movie,” Bachman said. “Legend alerted near the driver’s side window, and they pulled the driver away.

“In the center console of this car was a loaded and chambered handgun, about a pound each of meth and heroin all bagged for distribution. In the back of the car was a backpack with a lot of individual packages of marijuana and $20,000 cash. That guy ended up getting 15 years from Legend’s nose.”

Bachman said the postal inspector once utilized Legend during another investigation because drugs sent through the mail are an issue in the area.

In one case, a traffic stop in Arizona led to a shipping receipt being found. The receipt identified a package sent to a local post office. The department sent Legend down to the post office, and he immediately alerted on the live package in a group of dummy packages.

Out of countless memories and experiences the officers have shared, Bachman noted that those two incidents stuck with him. Through the years of service, Bachman was actually up for his promotion to Corporal and after six years of active service, Legend could relax and enjoy some sunshine.

Bachman explained that he was just promoted to Corporal when Legend was retired, so it works out well, although he can’t help but feel a bit melancholy.

“You know this whole thing is bittersweet because I have five years invested in that. We were a team, and we were a two-man patrol car,” Bachman said. “He’s still my dog and my buddy, and now he can eat more and run free with the other dogs, but he still wants to go to work.”

 

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