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Sheriff Deputy Drew Kirchert, Sgt. Jim Bernardi and Arco

Special Guest Arco Visits Wasuma Elementary School

Deputy Kirchert demonstrates Arco’s obedience skills

AHWAHNEE — It’s a reasonable question. “Because Arco is so smart, can he speak human?”

That’s what was on one student’s mind at Wasuma Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 10, when Madera County Sheriff Deputy Drew Kirchert and Sergeant Jim Bernardi brought their K-9, Arco, for a demonstration. Arco is a Belgian Malinois, born and raised for his first two years in France.

“If you listen to my commands you’ll notice that some of them are in French,” Deputy Kirchert noted during the demo. Arco knows basic commands such as heel, sit, and down. If he does well, Arco gets rewarded with his favorite toy — a ball.

The deputy says Arco is a great dog to have around his family but, when it comes to work, Arco means business.

In the first part of the K-9 demo, Deputy Kirchert and Sgt. Bernardi showed the children a quick warm-up of tricks Arco has learned, leaving the end of the demo open for questions. My favorite question was the one about Arco speaking human.

Arco locates the scent

As round one concluded, round two of the demonstration showed the children how powerful Arco’s scent is.

Three plastic bins were placed alongside one another, but only one of the bins had the scent of a treat inside. Kirchert pointed out the ways in which Arco’s behavior differs when he finds exactly what he’s looking for.

“When he finds the scent spot, we look for a change in his behavior. Usually he will sit immediately or get a little bit antsy.”

The final show was saved for the older children as Sgt. Bernardi suited up his arm and “attacked” the handler (Kirchert), while Arco did what he is trained to do — which is to protect his handler.

Sgt. Bernardi demonstrates “attacking Arco’s handler”

“It’s a labor of love,” Bernardi said proudly. “Our K-9 unit is completely funded by the community. They are able to go through all of their obedience training because of it so they’re essentially the community’s K-9s.”

Before Arco was taken back into the patrol vehicle, children gave their last comments to the Sheriffs — one student said enthusiastically, “You did a great job!”

“I enjoy having our law enforcement come out to the school to show our kids that they’re really great,” says Wasuma Principal Heather Archer.

Patient as the afternoon carried on, with children observing in the sunshine, Madera County Sheriffs and K-9 Arco shared a great day at Wasuma — until Arco was ready to call it a day and head home.

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