Canines make rounds at Mesa, AZ Hospital

If you visit Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, you may see a K-9 team patrolling the halls: a majestic, 68-pound Belgian Malinois imported from Holland and his handler, security Officer Brandon “Rudy” Morgan.

The dog, Stuka, is named after a type of World War II German bomber plane.

Stuka’s calming presence is used in the emergency room when someone on street drugs, spice or “bath salts” comes in angry and aggressive. The dog is used in the neonatal intensive-care unit when a mother gets angry that her infant is being taken from her by Child Protective Services. Stuka also has searched rooms for illicit drugs and weapons.

But mainly just his presence is enough.

“He’s 99 percent deterrent,” Morgan said. “I’ve had people see the dog and get up and leave. They might have something on them, or they might be here for no good reason.”

Morgan and Stuka, who patrol all seven floors of Cardon Children’s Medical Center and the four floors at nearby Banner Desert, walk 12 miles a day. Another dog takes the night shift.

The dogs are among a stable of canines at all Banner properties in Arizona as well as North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. Other hospital systems around the nation visit Banner sites when planning to start a canine program.

The Banner dogs are imported from Europe and are trained to receive commands in their native languages of Dutch, German or Czech.

At Banner Desert, Morgan said, if a person becomes aggressive with a doctor, Morgan or another officer intervenes with the dog.

A tight, sensitive bond exists between Morgan and Stuka, and if someone’s movements raise Stuka’s suspicions, he’ll alert Morgan.

“Nine times out of 10, he’s right,” Morgan said. “He’ll pick up on someone’s mannerisms before I do. … Many times, that person has become a problem in the hospital, and instead of me telling (Stuka), it’s (the dog) telling me.”

“I usually give a warning first before I deploy the dog,” he said. “We practice crisis prevention. He’s the last resort.”

Stuka, who is sensitive and alert, does not like people making exaggerated movements, which Morgan said is one of the dog’s “triggers.” Stuka will communicate with a whine.

“He lets me know that guy is not doing what he should be doing.”

Stuka usually goes without his muzzle but wears it in the emergency room and on Mondays, when more people than usual are walking the hallways.

Stuka lives with Morgan, his wife and two small children, and when the dog is not working, he’s playful and loving.

All handlers are certified through the National Police Canine Association, and training is constant.

Handlers and dogs participate in competitions that include handler-protection scenarios, bomb-sniffing exercises and agility.

Dogs will compete in the 11th annual Desert Dog Police K-9 Trials on April 13-14 at Scottsdale Stadium, sponsored by the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association.

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