Police dog back on track

Tracker is a moving a little bit more slowly than normal and his eyes may not be so bright, but overall the dog is doing well considering he

was poisoned Jan. 16.

A blood test on Wednesday should let his handler, El Dorado County sheriff's Deputy Terry Fleck, know if Tracker will survive. The poison the police service dog swallowed acts as a blood thinner and takes about two weeks to run its course.

"I probably knew he was poisoned within 20 or 30 minutes," Fleck said. "The bad news is that he swallowed a fatal dose.

The good news is that the intervention happened pretty rapidly."

Fleck, a handler for 19 years, induced vomiting in Tracker before he took him for emergency medical treatment. All handlers are trained and carry supplies that can make a dog vomit because there is always a chance a dog will swallow narcotics on the job, Fleck said.

The 7-year-old German shepherd ate the poison in Fleck's backyard in Meyers. Investigators suspect someone threw the poison over a fence that encloses the yard. They have not said what type of poison was used because they are still working on the case.

Tracker has been kept off duty since the incident because the poison may have thinned his blood. If his blood has been affected, any bruise or injury suffered on the job could prove fatal.

"We're not going to take any chances till we get a green light," Fleck said. "If his blood work is good Wednesday he'll be back out on the streets Thursday."

None of the lethargy Fleck spoke of was evident on Sunday afternoon as Tracker leapt in and out of snowbanks outside the sheriff's substation.

"I don't know what the long-term effects will be, especially scenting," Fleck said. "If there is anything, hopefully it won't affect his nose and it will be business as usual."

The business that Fleck and Tracker conduct is dangerous. Fleck said his life and Tracker's have been threatened numerous times during the years.

"He has caught bad guys who have threatened to kill him and me. It's kind of standard operation for the business -- one of the negative things about the job," Fleck said.

Tracker has been integral to hundreds of cases since he was certified in 1996. The majority of his work involves narcotics investigations, but the shepherd also sniffs out evidence, tracks suspects, searches buildings, works search and rescues and even helps control aggressive jail inmates.

Fleck said since the story of Tracker's poisoning went public, he and his dog have been flooded with support.

"The community support has been unbelievable," he said. "The number of calls, letters, toys and food baskets have been incredible. It's been crazy."

To willfully injure a dog known to be handled by a peace officer is a felony that can be punished with time in prison. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (530) 573-3013 or call Secret Witness at (530) 541-6800.


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