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Meet Atlas and Blaze: Two K9 teams added to Virginia Conservation Police

K9 DWR
Dobyns and Atlas and Young and Blaze – Submitted photo

Two Virginia Conservation Police officers and their canine partners graduated last month from a nine-week training course to join the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources K9 program.

Master Officer Cameron Dobyns and K9 Atlas will be assigned to Essex County.

Senior Officer Bruce Young and K9 Blaze will be working in Henry County.

“They all did really well. It’s a lot of work for each handler and dog,” said DWR Conservation Police Sergeant Richard Howald, who is a veteran of the DWR K9 force and leads the K9 training program. “You’re trying to train a dog to do a task. But you’re also training the handler how to train the dog to do the task. And then you’re trying to combine them to work together.”

Training began in February.

“It’s quite a bit of work to make all that happen,” said Howald. “But you can see huge progression even on one day. This group progressed really well.”

The K9 teams help track missing persons and search for evidence. K9 dogs and their handlers have helped bring criminals to justice and reunited families.

“The K9 handlers and their dogs are a tremendous asset to the agency and support not only the mission of DWR, but the public safety mission of our partner agencies across the Commonwealth; they are a true force multiplier,” said Major Ryan Shuler, deputy chief of law enforcement of the Virginia Conservation Police. “Their abilities to locate articles and evidence and track suspects and missing persons enhance our ability to protect Virginia’s wildlife resources and citizens.”

The K9 program now has nine teams working statewide.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.