HPD welcomes its newest officer - BriscoOn a recent sunny and breezy day, 11 teams lined up for graduation ceremonies at the St. Paul Police Canine Unit Training Facility. Among the graduates were Hudson K9 handler Todd Ludvik and his K9 partner, Brisco.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
On a recent sunny and breezy day, 11 teams lined up for graduation ceremonies at the St. Paul Police Canine Unit Training Facility.
The ceremony was the culmination of 12 weeks of largely outdoor, arduous training that included temperatures ranging from -20 to 90 degrees with snow, rain, sleet and heat. Among the graduates were Hudson K9 handler Todd Ludvik and his K9 partner, Brisco.
The two were paired up in early February when Brisco, a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois hybrid, joined Ludvik, his wife, Debra, and their pet German shepherd dog.
All of the dogs come from eastern Europe and are acquired through the St. Paul program at a cost of $7,500. Training costs $2,500.
The St. Paul Police Canine Unit Training Unit started in 1957 with a class of three dogs. The unit and the training facility have since grown, acquiring a national reputation. The St. Paul unit has earned the top award in the nation seven years out of the last 20.
According to lead trainer Officer Mark Ficcadenti, the K9 officers act as a force multiplier.
“You can search a house with a dog and find suspects hiding in places you never dreamed,” said Ficcadenti, who put the class through a series of demonstrations as part of the public graduation ceremony.
Brisco, who is 2, is older than the other graduates, who average 14 months.
“This all started when Andy Smith was chief, I had put together a proposal,” said Ludvik, who has been in criminal justice for 19 years, the last five with Hudson. “He jumped on board but it was sidetracked while the search for a new chief was conducted. When Marty was selected, he was already on board with the idea so it moved forward.”
Ludvik had to undergo an interview with the St. Paul unit to see if he was fit, able and had the individual drive.
“If they determined you were not going to get through the training, they won’t let you go any further,” said Ludvik. “It was so much more than what I expected. Physically you have to be in pretty decent shape because you hit the ground running (literally).
“Plus it was physically, psychologically and emotionally demanding. You are putting this dog through all these changes and it is up to you to decipher how it is reacting.”
Ludvik came home with ample proof, including bruises, bite marks when a overzealous pup bit him in the shoulder, and stitches when a dog bit through his tennis shoe, ripping open his foot.
“You get into good shape as you go through the class,” said Ludvik, who has had dogs his whole life and at one time trained Labrador retrievers for hunting. “The obedience and agility work were great cardiovascular activity as well.”
Throughout the 12 weeks the teams were put through their exercises at the facility and in the field as well, climbing fire escapes, searching abandoned buildings and tracking in neighborhoods.
“We did a lot of work in the old Schmidt Brewery – the dogs saw different types of floors and were all over downtown St. Paul,” said Ludvik. “They have seen it all.
“Every day is different. You learn the dog and you get attached to him. We have just scratched the surface. We will continue to train.”
The team goes back to St. Paul in October for a three-week training session. Officer Ludvik and Brisco were paired up with fellow graduates Justin Johnson and his K9 partner, Cash (see related story on page 6A of the June 4 print edition of the Hudson Star-Observer). Johnson is a St. Croix County deputy, and the two men will train together, acting as decoy suspects for each other’s dogs.
The animals and their handlers put on demonstrations in agility, obedience, tracking and apprehension work. Although demonstrations of apprehension work make for great photos and impressed the more than 200 people who gathered for the graduation, such work is not the primary function of K9 officers.
“Tracking is a huge part of the work,” said Ludvik. “The apprehensive and biting is just a small part. Canine tracking is the locating tool. That is the main purpose is to find what you are looking for a human, clothing or other items.”
“If you can locate the suspect you can then apprehend him,” said Ludvik.
Ludvik and his wife Debra’s lives changed the day Brisco arrived. For Brisco and Todd the day started at 5:30 a.m. since Brisco needed to be fed a couple of hours before he could go to work.
From March 9 until last week, the team headed into St. Paul by 7 a.m. The dogs were groomed and did warm-ups until 8:30 a.m. when the formal training began, wrapping up at 5:30 p.m.
“It started all over again the next morning,” said Ludvik. “This is a family effort. He is a part of our house and our family, but he is not a pet — he is a working dog.”
Donations are integral to the success of the K9 officer program. So far, local businesses who have offered help are Fleet Farm, Home Depot, Gemstone and Hillcrest Animal Hospital, as well as Canidae dog food.
K9 Officer Brisco and his handler, Officer Todd Ludvik, reported for work this week with the Hudson Police Department.