K-9 Cigy, a German shepherd, looks and acts like your typical police dog.

“People are intimidated by him because of the way he looks,” said his handler, Jackson police Cpl. Phil Smith. “And he’s got poor eyesight, so he tends to bark when there are a lot of people around.”

But when Cigy is off the clock he’s a regular playful pup.

“He’s really just a big baby,” Smith said. “He’s super friendly, and everything is a toy. We don’t really go anywhere without each other.”

Between the Jackson Police Department and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office there are four canine units working to keep drugs out of Jackson Hole.

The K-9s all have the same responsibilities at work, but off-duty the dogs all have their own personalities.

Take Sully, a 2-year-old chocolate Lab.

“He’s playful and likes everybody,” said his handler, Jackson police Officer Christian Smith. “He has no protection drive. We will be riding around town, and people will walk up to the car and he tries to lick them through the window.”

Randy, another Lab, loves to be called a good boy.

“He’s a total ham,” Teton County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Jess Stone said. “He’s motivated by affection. Even when we’re working he will go after a Kong with a rope, but then he’ll come up and want attention.”

And then there’s Stitch, a brown and white springer spaniel with curls on his ears.

He looks more like a family pet than a narcotics dog.

“At home he is always super hyper,” Teton County sheriff’s Master Deputy Jesse Willcox said. “Our nickname for him is ‘Wreck it Ralph.’”

All four K-9 handlers say the most common question they hear from the public is whether the dogs get to go home with them.

“People always ask if he lives with me,” Christian Smith said of Sully.

Smith lives on 17 acres in Sublette County and has three other dogs — Shaq, Jasper and Cash — so Sully is just another part of the gang when they’re at home.

“They all have a lot of fun chasing each other around,” he said. “Because we got Sully at about a year old, being a puppy, it wasn’t an adjustment at all. They just sniffed each other and it was game on.”

At Phil Smith’s house Cigy and Smith’s other dog, Moose, are best buds.

Moose becomes a little jealous that Cigy gets to go to work with Smith, so when it comes to sleeping arrangements Moose rules the roost.

“Cigy will snuggle sometimes, but a lot of times it’s Moose hogging the bed and Cigy goes to the foot of the bed,” Smith said.

Stitch is the only house pet for Willcox and his family. But because Willcox and his wife have four children, Stitch gets plenty of attention.

“The kids love him,” Willcox said. “Every once in a while my son will sneak out of his bed with a pillow and sleep next to him in his kennel.”

Randy also has dog friends at home, KD and Lucy.

“We have a big field out behind our house that they’re always running around in,” Stone said. “And, if we’re inside, Randy will hoard toys in his crate. He’ll end up with four toys in there at once.”

The dogs have a way of knowing when it’s time to work and when it’s OK to play.

“On a normal day off he knows when I wake up and I’m in normal clothes he gets to goof off for the day,” Willcox said about Stitch. “When he sees me getting ready for work and putting the uniform on, I have to pick him up and put him in my car. He doesn’t always want to go to work.”

Working dogs often remain the handler’s pets even after they retire.

“People usually don’t understand that, after I accepted taking on a canine, he is my responsibly from when I get him to the day he dies,” Christian Smith said.

The dogs come with a lot of responsibility, both time and financial.

In fall 2017, Dr. Dan Forman created a nonprofit to help alleviate some of the financial burdens put on the officers.

The Jackson Hole Police K-9 Auxiliary has helped fund dog kennels, vet bills, training expenses, food and patrol cars that are K-9 friendly.

“We wouldn’t have a K-9 unit without his nonprofit,” Phil Smith said. “We have a limited budget and dogs are expensive.”

The dogs go through mandatory weekly trainings and must be recertified every year.

All four K-9s are single-purpose narcotics dogs, meaning they aren’t attack patrol dogs.

“If Sully was let loose on someone he would lick them to death,” Christian Smith said.

If you see a K-9 and his handler out in public it’s OK to say hello, but ask permission first.

If you’d like to donate to the auxiliary it has an account at Bank of Jackson Hole.

You can also donate or inquire about volunteering by emailing jhpolicek9@gmail.com. 

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and breaking news. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

(1) comment

Tim Rieser

The article doesn’t really say but one assumes these dogs are trained to sniff out pot. What is the point? Don’t we learn? Haven’t we progressed beyond jailing people for smoking weed? We are a county so mired in stupid that is boggles the mind.

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