Ohio Co-op Helps Take a Bite Out of Crime
By Victoria Rocha
If you’re at the Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative warehouse and you encounter a few German shepherds, feel free to look, but don’t touch.
The animals are on official business, practicing their sniffing skills as bomb and narcotics detectors with their handlers at the co-op’s headquarters in Rio Grande, Ohio. The warehouse’s hustle and bustle make it the perfect training ground for the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s canine units.
“I use other facilities as well, but what’s nice about Buckeye is that there are so many places to hide stuff for the handlers and dogs,” said Sgt. Stoney Johnson, who runs the patrol’s canine training program. “Because it’s a warehouse, there are parts and pieces and people around and it’s just more realistic…it’s a business that’s lived in continuously. And it’s heated. If the weather is bad, we can get in there and work.”
The arrangement between Buckeye REC and the Ohio State Highway Patrol stems from the co-op’s Matt Hall, a past volunteer with the patrol’s reserves. Hall, a senior lineworker, kept in touch with Johnson. When more indoor training facilities for the dogs were needed, Hall went to the top—and got an immediate yes.
“It’s an opportunity to open our space, to allow these wonderful animals to be trained,” said Tonda Meadows, Buckeye REC’s general manager and CEO. “You feel like you have to help. This is a small community and everybody is very close. Unfortunately, many families are affected by the tragedies caused by illegal drug use.”
The patrol has its own facility in Marysville, but the dogs need a variety of “real-life” environments to keep sharp while fulfilling federal requirements of 16 hours of training each month.
“It feels good that we can provide the training here,” said Hall. “It’s a big thing for them to have a place like this.”
Victoria Rocha writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.
CanineTrainer_Source_SarahHill.jpg: Drug-sniffing German shepard Rocky and his handler participate in a training exercise at Buckeye REC. Photo By: Sarah Hill