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Colli, military working dog, leaps to bite Staff Sgt. Charlie Hardesty, kennel master, Provost Marshal’s Office, while he wears a bite suit during a K-9 demonstration for the "Paws for Reading" program hosted at the base kennels, July 11, 2014.

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

‘Paws for Reading’ brings Combat Center families to K-9 demonstration

11 Jul 2014 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria

The children sat outside anxiously waiting for the beginning of the presentation. A dog appeared at the corner of the field and received the command from his handler to attack. A Marine stood on the other end of the field wearing a bite suit. He then began to run away, but military working dog, Colli quickly closed the distance. The working dog sank its teeth into the Marine’s arm and wasn’t going to let go. The simulated criminal tried his best to break free, but Colli did not loosen his grip until the handler yelled the command to release.

The working dogs instant obedience impressed the audience of families during a K-9 demonstration hosted at the base kennels, July 11, 2014. The event was part of a series of field trips hosted by the base library, for the summer-long “Paws for Reading” program.

“Field trips like this one are always geared toward the children, but the reading portions of the program are open for all ages because of how much participation has grown,” said Ursula Morales, program coordinator, base library. “I love using our on-base resources to provide different events for kids. It gets them out of the house and doing something.”

The field trips compliment the reading and show families some of what the K-9 Division with PMO is capable of.

“This program helps the younger children stay engaged in reading over the summer to avoid what’s called ‘summer slide’ where students will regress in their reading if they don’t keep their minds active,” Morales said, “To avoid that we include incentives to keep participants interested.”

The dog handlers went through the different stages of aggression with several of their working dogs. From demonstrating each dog’s obedience to simulating attacks in different scenarios, the handlers entertained families by showing a different part of PMO.

“Letting people know what we do and that we’re here to help them, helps us,” said Cpl. Darren Westmoreland, working dog handler, Provost Marshal’s Office. “Putting the dogs in the scenario with a crowd helps them train by still having them perform the tasks they have to accomplish regardless of the people’s reactions.”

The bond between handler and dog builds over time allowing the team to be effective when in use.

“They say not to get too attached to the dog you work with but how can you not get attached to something you work with for hours day in and day out,” Westmoreland said. “Obedience comes from asserting your dominance from the beginning of the relationship. My dog, Colli, started on a rocky road with me. He wanted to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and that’s when you have to step in as the handler and be the dominant role,”

Although this was the program’s last visit to the kennels for the summer, the ‘Paws for Reading’ program is scheduled to continue until Aug. 8 and will be open for registrations and participation until then.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms