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A New Wildlife Officer Speaks Dutch, Has Four Legs and a Tail

January 13, 2016

For federal wildlife enforcement officers, time on the job means a lot of time alone, wandering remote areas. But one wildlife officer now has a new companion to keep him company on the trail: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's very first enforcement dog in the Northwest.

The first thing you might notice about Ukkie is he that speaks Dutch.

“His name is actually Dutch slang for 'little one'. He’s a little bit on the smaller side for a Belgian Malinois,” says officer Josh Hindman.

Hindman looks down at the light brown dog lying at his feet. Ukkie, who is now 18 months old, looks very much like a German Shepherd.

Ukkie was bred and born in Holland, which means Hindman had to learn a few tricks of his own: commands in Dutch.

“…Or my version. A Dutch person might not agree with me, but it’s Dutch,” Hindman says.

 “Apport!” Hindman says the command for fetch or retrieve.

Ukkie takes off on a search of scraggly bushes behind a barn in Burbank, Wash. He’s looking for my phone — trying to pick up fresh human scent in the air. It’s like a training mission for the sort of search he might do in the backcountry.

Ukkie zigzags back and forth through the bushes.

“I kind of keep him on target,” Hindman says.

Josh Hindman and Ukkie have worked in the field together for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for about a month. Ukkie is the Service’s first enforcement dog in the Pacific Northwest. Courtney Flatt, NWPR

The two are new to this. They’ve been working in the field for about a month. But already Hindman sees Ukkie’s benefit to his work — looking for poachers, drug users, lost hikers — in remote areas in the Pacific Northwest and as far afield as Nevada and the Pacific Islands. All with little to no backup in sight.

“He’s my partner. He’s adding another law enforcement officer to ride with me. Our station has three enforcement officers — essentially it’s got four now. Because I have a partner that can protect me, pull his own weight and do his own thing,” Hindman says.

Ukkie is the 13th dog to join the force nationally, and they are a welcome addition.

“Suspects get away from us. We just couldn’t find them hidden on a tree farm or something like that. It would have been nice to have the dog to help find them,” Hindman says.

Working with Ukkie was not a commitment Hindman took lightly. The two trained together for six weeks in October.

Ukkie lives with Hindman, his wife, 2-year-old and other pets. Ukkie rides with Hindman about an hour into work from Irrigon, Ore.
 
“He doesn’t have the best house manners because when I’m at work, I want him to jump on the tables to sniff for narcotics high and things like that, so I don’t really want to fuss at him for doing those things at the house,” Hindman says.
 
It’s important to keep those sniffing and tracking skills up. The two train with other enforcement dogs in the area, like Benton County or the State Department of Fish and Wildlife. 
 
“The dog loves coming to work. He gets excited when we get in the truck. He gets excited on training days. Even when he’s doing the control work, and I have to send him to bite the bad guy, so to speak, he’s not fighting that guy. It’s a play,” Hindman says.
 
And that’s evident while Ukkie searches the bushes for my phone and keys. He shakes with excitement — not cold.
 
After a few minutes of sniffing he passes by a Coke can and a piece of litter that had blow in from a nearby road. He could tell those objects hadn’t been near people recently. And after a few minutes of sniffing, he finds my blue cellphone case, hidden in the bushes.
 
“See, he downed, and he’s looking at it,” Hindman says.
 
The job’s complete, and it’s time for a little reward. Hindman grabs a white ball out of his pocket. It’s attached to a piece of rope.
 
“Good boy! Good boy!” Hindman praises Ukkie.
 
Ukkie grabs the ball, and Hindman pulls the rope. He lifts Ukkie a couple feet in the air. The pair swing in a circle.
 
Hindman says the partnership could last for 10 years.
 
“[We’re the] first in the region, so we got a lot of eyes on me,” Hindman says.

But, he says, they can handle that.

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Ukkie speaks Dutch and knows commands like apport, or fetch. He can help trackdown drug traffickers, find lost hikers, and search for poachers.

Courtney Flatt, NWPR

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