The Simi Valley Police Department's newest canine and his handler are back after a stellar performance at the Police K-9 Trials in Bakersfield.
Charly, a longhair German shepherd who joined the department in August, and his handler, Officer Sterling Johnson, competed against other teams from around the state during the two days of field trials held late last month.
In his first organized competition, Charly took a first place award for the novice division in the field trials, a series of events that include a dog's ability to traverse obstacles, its obedience and other skills.
A moment of levity came when Charly decided not to run through a tunnel during the obstacle portion of the competition and instead followed Johnson around the tunnel.
"He did the bar jump without any trouble," Johnson said. "But then he went into the tunnel, and he kept coming out. He was like, 'I'm not going in there.' It was frustrating to see him not do well with one of the obstacles, but the next one was obedience, and he aced that. He actually got a standing ovation."
Charly also finished third overall in the narcotics detection portion of the competition, which Johnson said was a remarkable feat because many of the dogs who compete in narcotics detection are used by their departments for only that purpose. Charly is considered a dual-purpose dog, one that can sniff for narcotics and also fulfill the general duties of a police dog.
Johnson's first canine was Atlas, who won the World Police and Fire Games in both 1989 and 1991. He is now retired and lives with Johnson and his family.
Given Charly's performance at the Bakersfield competition, Johnson said the prospects for bringing another world title back to Simi Valley are good.
"At this stage in his training and career, he's a lot better dog in some ways than Atlas was," Johnson said.