Brunswick County K9 Team earns top dog in narcotics search at national competition

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Cpl. Matt Chism and his 7-year-old Malinois, Ajk, earn a first-place award at a national K9 competition in Raleigh. (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)
Cpl. Matt Chism and his 7-year-old Malinois, Ajk, earn a first-place award at a national K9 competition in Raleigh. (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A Corporal with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and his K9 recently earned a first-place award at the United States Police Canine Association – Region II Trials.

The National Detector Dog Trials, part of the association’s national competitions, was held in Raleigh at the beginning of the month, hosted by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. Cpl. Matt Chism and K9 Ajk took first-place at the competition in Vehicle Search — Narcotics.

“It was tough. I was very nervous being that it was a national trial,” Chism said about the competition. “There were a lot of different dogs from different states. It was very interesting getting to … meet people from all over the country.”

K9 teams from all over the country were judged on a variety of law-enforcement related tasks. The vehicle search portion of the trials, Chism said, consisted of a five-car search, each set up 15 feet apart — all the same make, model and color — with two narcotics “finds” hidden somewhere in the vehicles.

Six national judges scored each handler’s ability to recognize their dog’s signals, the handler’s ability to control the leash, as well as the ability of the dog to alert where the narcotics are in the vehicle. The teams were are also scored on how fast the team found the narcotic.

Chism and Ajk finished the search in 2 minutes and 6 seconds and found both finds, correctly, he said.

“It was good. There were several other people that did tie with me as far as their score, but I had the best time. So, I won overall,” Chism said. “Some dogs, they’ll get close, but these judges on a national level will score you on the actual source of the odor, not just them smelling it. They want to see that dog get right on that odor and alert to it. And that was what he did. I was very pleased with Ajk.”

Ajk, a 7-year-old Malinois, is not the first dog Chism has worked with. Chism’s role within the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit, brought the team together. The narcotics-sniffing K9 has remained within the Chism family, previously owned by Matt Chism’s brother Brian Chism, who has since left the unit to take on a role as captain at the sheriff’s office.

“A lot of training goes into these dogs,” Chism said, adding that most dogs used for law-enforcement cost about $10,000. Most of the dogs on Brunswick County’s street force are multi-purpose dogs, which consist of bite work, tracking and narcotics search.

The K9 units at the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office train every Tuesday for about 6 to 7 hours; practicing a mixture of narcotics finds, vehicle searches, room searches, and school searches. The sheriff’s office also has a training facility in Shallotte that has most of the force’s agility courses.

The weekly trainings, bi-annual certifications and occasional competitions, like the one held this month, are all part of keeping up the skills K9 teams need for real-life situations on the street.

Though work in the K9 Unit is time-consuming and challenging, Chism said he wouldn’t have it any other way. Chism has been with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office for 8 years and has worked within the K9 Unit the last 4 years.

“You spend so much time with these animals, they kind of become your family. And it’s really a blessing,” Chism said. “These dogs are there. They have our backs. They’re very loyal. So anytime we’re out there on the street, if something was to go bad, I know that I have him right there with me. So in a sense, it’s kind of a peace of mind for me, that I have back-up right there in my truck. It’s amazing. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I love the K9 unit.”

WATCH Cpl. Chism and Ajk doing a training search at the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office: