Jupiter police K9 Sherlock, a 105-pound bloodhound with massive ears and paws, is one of the only of his breed in Palm Beach County. His scent-specific skills make him trained to perform search-and-rescue missions that humans can’t do.
With Sherlock’s special abilities, it makes sense that he has something special to commemorate him: a trading card.
He and his four other K9 colleagues have special cards detailing their traits and fun facts, handed out by officers to kids at events or on patrol.
“They’re cooler than Pokemon cards,” K9 Officer Scott Kimbark said. “They’re limited edition.”
Jupiter’s community outreach tool is small but impactful. K9 Officer Chad Norman, who handles 8-year-old Sherlock and a 2-year-old German Shepard named Corby, said the cards are a way to bridge the gap between police officers and children for a low cost.
The trading cards aren’t a novel concept. Jupiter has used them for about nine months after first introducing them seven years ago for a scavenger hunt. The K9 cards in circulation now are just meant for fun.
Other police agencies use trading cards, too. Delray Beach police has circulated cards for their four K9s for about three years and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has cards for their K9s, the TSA dogs at Palm Beach International Airport and for the Animal Kindness Safety Programs.
Each department has its own take on what goes on the back. For Jupiter K9s, it’s traditional statistics and a fun fact. For PBSO, it’s an origin story and a quote from the dog.
No matter what the card says, it’s meant to make the kids smile.
“It’s a really rewarding way to get kids interested in what we do,” Norman said.
The cards can also act as icebreakers for children, said Delray Beach K9 Sgt. Adam Margolis. He said negative perceptions of police activity and K9s, which some believe are aggressive and frequently bite, can be overcome by showing a sweeter side to a policeman’s best friend.
“A lot of kids are afraid of the dog and they don’t want to pet them,” Margolis said. “But with these cards we’re able to breach that and the kids might be more open to them.”
Norman said they do the job well. Recently, he and several officers were out to eat during a restaurant’s family night when a young boy came to their table for a high-five. Norman gave the boy a card and later, he came back with a police-car balloon creation from a clown and told the officers he wanted to be just like them when he grew up.
Handlers and their dogs go through nine months of training to get certified and on duty. The result is a professional and personal bond.
“These dogs will give their life to protect yours,” Norman said.
And while Kimbark said it’s rewarding for an officer and his K9 to “catch the bad guys” and bring closure to victims, some of the best moments with their partners in policing are the simple ones at home.
“He loves to swim,” Kimbark said of his K9, a 4-year-old German Shepard named Dylan. “Sometimes we’ll come to the station and he’s soaking wet because he just jumped in the pool.”