Interview with William Sessa
How did Hummer’s work as a Tracking and Narcotics Detection Dog begin?
William Sessa: Hummer’s nose work really started once he was brought over from Holland. Custom Canine Unlimited was the vendor from whom we purchased K9 Hummer and initially certified as a team here in Georgia. From the early stages of imprinting the odors (similar to Pavlov’s classical conditioning) to the early short high prey-driven tracks, we progressed to various thresholds of source odor weights, set times, and lengths of the tracks.
What are some of the certifications he has received? How much training was required?
William Sessa: Hummer held certifications from two approved accreditors on an annual basis. Basically, he had to pass certification every six months. This requirement is double the required legal standard, a standard I kept once becoming the certified trainer for the entire K9 Unit.
Hummer certified in narcotics detection, obedience, tracking, article searches, area searches, building searches, and bite work, which included proofing a verbal out from a bite and a recall as well as engaging under gunfire. Each year we certified with NNDDA, the National Narcotic Detection Dog Association, as well as Custom Canine Unlimited.
The Belgian Malinois is one of the hardest-working purebred dogs. What makes this breed uniquely suited for work in law enforcement?
William Sessa: Oh, simple. The Belgian Malinois is known for its immense drive and reckless abandonment, and its will to survive anything. For example, Malinois won’t think or hesitate if you throw their ball through a wall of fire (highly DON’T RECOMMEND); they will go through the fire. A German Shepherd Dog will look at you as if to say “Nah, how about you go fetch?”
The Malinois’ ability to throw caution to the wind is what makes it a great breed for this type of work. This is, of course, on top of its physical ability and nose! A trainer much smarter than me once said that a German Shepherd Dog is a “studied dog,” meaning they will think a bit more than a Malinois… sometimes it’s better to have a thinker rather than a hammer.
Can you share a story that demonstrates how Hummer made a difference in his local community?
William Sessa: As a handler, you never really know what impacts your team has had on your community. I like to believe we made a difference daily, whether speaking to a group of people, educating them on the K9 Teams/Unit and the training, or giving out stickers to little kids who couldn’t wait to collect a sticker from every dog on the unit like it was a happy meal prize, or if I was locating a missing/endangered person and bringing them home to their family, or tracking and finding a homicide suspect and bringing justice and closure to a family who wondered why their loved one was gone but the suspect was still free. Hummer did his job and did it well, and if you do those two things then good will come.
Hummer did his job and did it well, and if you do those two things then good will come.
What have you and Hummer been up to now that you’re both retired from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department?
William Sessa: Hummer is enjoying retired life as much as a high-speed, low-drag nine-year-old Malinois can. I keep him fit, mentally and physically. He loves to sunbathe in the backyard and fetch for hours. We cuddle on the couch and watch football, and I take moments to thank him for all the years working with me. And I’m grateful to let him grow old in our house.