For federal wildlife enforcement officers, time on the job means a lot of time alone, wandering remote areas. But one wildlife officer now has a new companion to keep him company on the trail: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's very first enforcement dog in the Northwest.
The first thing you might notice about the Ukkie is he that speaks Dutch.
“His name is actually Dutch slang for little one. He’s a little bit on the smaller side for a Belgian Malinois,” says officer Josh Hindman.
Hindman looks down at the light brown dog lying at his feet. Ukkie, who is now 18 months old, looks very much like a German Shepard.
Ukkie was bred and born in Holland, which means Hindman had to learn a few tricks of his own: commands in Dutch.
“…Or my version. A Dutch person might not agree with me, but it’s Dutch,” Hindman says.
“Apport!” Hindman says the command for fetch or retrieve.
Ukkie takes of on a search of scraggly bushes behind a barn in Burbank, Washington. He’s looking for my phone — trying to pick up fresh human scent in the air. It’s like a training mission for the sort of search he might do in the backcountry.
Ukkie zigzags back and forth through the bushes.
“I kind of keep him on target,” Hindman says.
The two are new to this. They’ve been working in the field for about a month. But already Hindman sees Ukkie’s benefit to his work — looking for poachers, drug users, lost hikers — in remote areas in Pacific Northwest and as far afield as Nevada and the Pacific Islands. All with little to no backup in sight.
“He’s my partner. He’s adding another law enforcement officer to ride with me. Our station has three enforcement officers — essentially it’s got four now. Because I have a partner that can protect me, pull his own weight and do his own thing,” Hindman says.
Ukkie is the 13th dog to join the force nationally, and they are a welcome addition.
“Suspects get away from us. We just couldn’t find them hidden a tree farm or something like that. It would have been nice to have the dog to help find them,” Hindman says.
Working with Ukkie was not a commitment Hindman took lightly. The two trained together for six weeks in October.
first in the region, so we got a lot of eyes on me,” Hindman says.
But, he says, they can handle that.