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Oakley looks fearsome as he and handler Dep. Dan Kruchowski demonstrate his skills at the Lake George Blueberry Festival in July. Oakley impressed the crowd. (Sarah Smith /Enterprise)

K-9 Oakley heads to national competition

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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Oakley will run with the big dogs next week.

Hubbard County's new K-9 will compete in the United States Police Canine Association national trials next week in Detroit Lakes.

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The Belgian Malinois, a smaller version of a German shepherd, Oakley has already been involved in searches for drugs, missing persons and illegal aliens in his short tenure on the job. He's performed at gigs in Lake George, Laporte and all over the county, showing off his skills.

The Hubbard County Sheriff's Department purchased him from a Minnesota breeder. Oakley was fully trained. Handler Dan Kruchowski said Oakley's chops would be tested in all areas of the trials including obedience, agility, article search and suspect apprehension.

But he must be certified nationally in obedience before he can advance, Kruchowski said.

"I don't know" what his chances are, Kruchowski said Thursday as he and Oakley trained in Detroit Lakes. "There's a lot of good dogs. He's a good dog but you just never know. At this level of competition and certification if you miss one major on obedience, it's done. First place is out the door. The dogs are that good over here."

Oakley is nearly 3 years old. His size shouldn't fool you.

It's the bite that counts. He inadvertently bit into the seam of a volunteer's padded suit at a demonstration in Lake George this summer.

He'd picked just the right spot, where the suit's arm padding met the body padding. The man winced and grabbed his armpit, then grinned. Oakley had immediately found the soft spot. The man wasn't seriously injured.

At the Laporte demonstration, even Sheriff Cory Aukes winced a few times as Oakley bit into the heavy padding covering Aukes' arm.

The obedience training will be on several levels. Kruchowski said he must control Oakley's walk heeling, obedience at a distance by voice and by hand, sit and stay commands and walking control.

"There must get a certain score in obedience to go on," Kruchowski said.

Oakley is certified regionally, but Kruchowski wants him to have national standing.

"Most of the hard work and training's been done and now we just want to have fun and compete."

And at week's end, Oakley hopes to be a truly good dog. The competition runs from Sept. 18-23 at several locations in Detroit Lakes.

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