© Ashley Thompson
Coun. Dave Seeley, right, got acquainted with RCMP dog handler Rick Bushey and his German shepherd, Ammo, during a demonstration for Windsor’s police advisory committee recently.
Wherever Rick Bushey may be, it’s a safe bet his four-legged partner is not far away.
Bushey, a police officer with 33 years of service with the RCMP, joined the RCMP’s dog division in 1992. The New Brunswick native underwent an intensive five-month training program in Innisfail, Alta. to learn how to work alongside a police dog.
He is one of five active dog handlers the RCMP have stationed in Nova Scotia. There are, Bushey estimated, about 135 in Canada.
Joined by his 110-pound German shepherd Ammo, Bushey typically patrols the Annapolis Valley area, but the duo goes wherever they are needed.
Bushey visited a police advisory meeting held in Windsor’s council chambers in the fall of 2013 to brief the committee on the value of police dogs and demonstrate Ammo’s specialty — finding explosives.
The veteran dog handler hid a small item for Ammo to find in the council chambers before the dog was brought in. He informed Ammo it was time to stop socializing and switch into work mode by removing the choker the dog wears in his off hours with a nylon collar that indicates it is time to search for explosive devices.
In a matter of minutes, Ammo was awarded with a toy after sitting in the far corner of the council chambers, indicating to Bushey that he had found the hidden object.
“Even computers today… can’t research how powerful that nose is,” Bushey said.
It wasn’t Ammo’s first trip to Windsor.
Bushey told the committee they were recently called in to help local RCMP members track down drugs that went missing after a paramedic bag was taken from the Hants Community Hospital.
The bag had already been retrieved, and a suspect was in custody by the time Bushey arrived with Ammo, but it was believed the missing drugs were hidden somewhere in the bushes near the hospital.
Calling on Ammo and Bushey, who had the drugs located within 15 to 20 minutes, was a cost-effective alternative to dedicating five or six members or an entire search team to the cause.
“It’s a good example to show how it does reduce man hours and how efficient the dog can do it,” Bushey said.
He says they are often called to assist with situations wherein time is of the essence.
“If you had a bomb threat and started searching by hand it would take you an awful lot longer than it would take Ammo and I to search it because he is using his nose.”
Bushey says the pair often works 24/7, and they’re seldom separated.
“I never leave home without him.”
Ammo is also trained to track a fugitive, locate a missing person and apprehend a suspect.
“It’s amazing what they can actually do,” said Bushey.
“I’m just the chauffeur,” he joked.
Bushey, who raised police pups are part of his training, says German shepherds are hard working dogs that are loyal to their handlers and capable of getting the job done in all weather conditions.
He announced that an incoming handler, who will soon help cover the Windsor area, was in the process of transferring to Nova Scotia along with his canine companion, a police dog specializing in drug detection.
As for Bushey, he plans to hold off on retiring for a while yet.
“It’s going to be touch and go because Ammo’s a little bit younger than I am but, if everything goes well and I can hang on for another two or three years, Ammo will be at a certain age where they will look at retiring him instead of reteaming him.”