At the end of a rope, military police handlers, dogs bond - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

At the end of a rope, military police handlers, dogs bond

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Posted: Saturday, October 25, 2008 6:54 pm | Updated: 8:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

SIERRA VISTA - Knuppel and Dag were inquisitive.

They tilted their heads and looked up as soldiers of the 18th Military Police Detachment rappelled down a 40-foot-tall tower at Fort Huachuca last week.

It wasn't going to be their normal exercise of searching for explosives, Knuppel's specialty, or drugs, Dag's specialty, or even patrolling, which they both are trained to do.

No, 4-year-old Dutch shepherd Knuppel and 3-year-old German shepherd Dag were going to rappel, too.

While their human partners, Staff Sgt. John Hughey, who works with Knuppel, and Sgt. Megan Hobson, who handles Dag, have rappelled, neither had done it with a military working dog attached to them.

Preparing the 92-pound Knuppel, Hughey put on the dog's rappel harness and the MP picked up the animal by the device to make sure it would hold him while ensuring Knuppel would not slip out of the harness at as high as three stories.

When it was Hobson's and 83-pound Dag's turn, the same process was done, with Hughey helping Hobson to ensure the harness was a proper fit.

Knuppel and Hughey have been partners for some time. Hobson and Dag are just becoming a team. The German shepherd has been on the post for less than two weeks.

"This is going to be some special bonding time for us," Hobson said.

Hughey and Knuppel climbed up the three flights of steps first.

As the team prepared to rappel, with the soldier getting final safety instructions, Knuppel looked over the edge as his tail wagged in anticipation.

Hughey backed over the edge, suddenly, and as planned, his dog was between his legs as the soldier rappelled down the tower.

Knuppel was almost nonchalant as he was lowered to the ground, looking around - no whimpering, no barking, just a ho-hum appearance about the situation.

As soon as the dog's paws hit the ground, it was if he had never left earth. A second or two later, Hughey was on terra firma. He reached down, pet his partner and repeated "good dog, good boy."

Once Hughey was unhooked from the ropes and Knuppel was detached from him, off they went, the dog in a more normal way with a lead being handled by Hughey.

Dag and Hobson had a slightly different experience.

Hobson was fine.

If there was any concern, it was how Dag would handle the situation. Unlike Knuppel, Dag is a little younger and a bit more hyper.

Dag looked over the edge once he got to the top of the tower, but his tail didn't wag.

Hobson went over the edge, but unlike Knuppel, Dag didn't want to be dropped between her legs.

Instead, the dog put his two front legs around her left leg for a while, holding on for dear life. Dag finally made it below and between Hobson's legs, and down the pair came.

Once the rappelling ropes were detached on the ground, Hobson reached down and gave Dag a pat and a hug.

Hughey said the rappel training is important "because it builds confidence between us, Knuppel and I."

One never knows if as a team they would have to rappel down a building or even out of a helicopter, which Hughey said he would like to do with Knuppel.

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