MY YARD, MY FAMILY — Luci relaxes with her family in the yard at home. From the left, 4-year-old Wyatt Gabbard, Luci, Deputy Shannon Gabbard and 9-year-old Rylee Gabbard. Photos courtesy of Pondera County Deputy Shannon Gabbard
By Tirsea McNeal I-O Reporter
She has spent six years of her life in the line of duty serving the community, confident in her abilities and fully trained to do a very specialized job. She will be retiring soon. Her name is Luci, and she is a dog.
Luci is an eight-year-old German Shepherd and was born in Eastern Europe. Her handler is Deputy Sheriff Shannon Gabbard of the Pondera County Sheriff’s Department.
She was purchased out of Big Timber and she didn’t cost the taxpayers a cent.
Appropriations from funds set aside for specialized law enforcement needs and equipment was utilized to purchase the trained canine
Gabbard said he’s thankful for the opportunity he’s had to serve as a K-9 handler. “It’s been a wonderful experience to serve in that capacity.”
One of the main roles for police dogs are pursuing and apprehending suspects attempting to escape law enforcement officers.
Dogs are usually trained for one specialty skill such as identifying drugs or smuggled goods, search and rescue operations, detecting accelerants at an arson scene or locating human remains.
Luci is considered dual trained, although she is trained in multiple areas. She is narcotics trained, has building and suspect tracking abilities meaning she can find a suspect or search in a building for narcotics or weapons.
Gabbard said, “Luci and I first met in Fremont, Ohio and ever since have had an inseparable bond.”
He added, “For the next six weeks, Luci and I would spend hours of training with six Ohio State Troopers and their dogs.” He said he did feel kind of out of place, but made some great friends. Their training included drug training, tracking, building searches and his favorite, bite training.”
Gabbard said, bite training was fun because they had the opportunity to catch each other’s dog, meaning they wore special suits and let the dogs bite them.
He added, “After training, it was time for the new partnership to be out to work. During our first month of work, Luci and I were called to assist the Montana Highway Patrol in searching a vehicle for suspected narcotics. Luci was successful in locating approximately five pounds of marijuana and approximately 30 grams of meth – a big load for two first-timers.”
Gabbard said he and Luci have found numerous amounts of illegal narcotics over the years, but never anything as big as the first.
He said, “We would even be called to assist the Blackfeet Safe Trails Drug Task Force to search for narcotics.”
Luci has never had the opportunity to physically apprehend a suspect herself, but Gabbard said, “She has located a few suspects, which were arrested without incident.”
He added, “She’s also successfully tracked a suspect after they stole a police car from a neighboring department.”
K-9 officers have formed tight relationships with their handlers, and Gabbard and Luci are no exception. Luci is very loyal to her handler and on occasion has been his guardian.
“Luci has protected me throughout the years,” said Gabbard, “on countless traffic stops where I am the only officer and my back up is away. You see, not only is she trained in all the other things I have talked about, she is trained to protect her handler.”
He said people’s demeanor changes when they know the officer is a K-9 handler and they have a trained police dog in their car.
Luci has lived with the Gabbard family since he brought her home. He said she adjusted very well to his two children and then later the third. Since his third child was born after Luci’s arrival, Luci became quite fond of Gabbard’s youngest. In Luci’s eyes he could do no wrong, but would also protect the rest of his family like part of her pack.
Gabbard said, “My family has loved her since day one and Luci has returned that affection ten-fold.
Now that Luci is retiring, she will become a permanent member of their family.
Gabbards concluded, “There has never been any doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t. It would be like giving up one of my own children, I can’t do that, our bond is a permanent one. Giving her up is not an option for me or my family.”