Rick Dietz: He takes a bite out of crime
Rick Dietz is going to the dogs and he’s happy about it. Training law enforcement dogs is his retirement career.
Rick is a certified canine trainer and instructor who works with Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and Belgian Malnois, which are especially suited to work with law enforcement agencies to track suspects, find drugs and detect evidence.
Rick was a canine handler for High Point Police Department for eight and a half years, and was the canine unit trainer for the last three years. He retired from the department in June 2011 after a 20-year career.
Rick, who loves animals as much as he loves being outdoors, had no problem deciding what to do next.
“I’m getting paid to play with dogs,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to spend your retirement.”
Rick is one of four trainers at High Point Canine Solutions, which is located near Wallburg-High Point Road. During the interview, Rick was working with a Belgian Malnois K-9 officer and the dog’s handler. The K-9 officer and police officer were eager to embark onto the “trail” — a five-minute course through briar-infested fields and woods.
The second the handler unhitched the leash the K-9 officer dashed toward his objective. The Belgian Malnois navigated the 600-yard track of wilderness obstacles in search of the assigned scent. Rick and the dog’s handler ran close behind.
Commands were spoken in German and Dutch, as well as English.
At the completion of the course, the dog enthusiastically welcomed his reward — a treat-filled black rubber toy or a Kong.
The run through the course was a refresher for the alumni dog, who received his initial training at the kennel.
Dogs aren’t the only ones who receive training. Rick works extensively with law enforcement handlers to ensure that they can read the signals of their animals and issue the appropriate commands.
Law enforcement is the second career for Rugger, a Labrador who wags his tail as he waits in a crate nestled in the back of Rick’s pickup truck. Soon Rugger will head out for a law enforcement career in Bristol, Tenn.
“Rugger is a duck dog who failed,” said Rick. “They like ‘em to have a soft bite. His isn’t. But that’s just the sort of dog we like to get.”
During his six-week stay at the kennel, Rugger has learned to locate pseudo-drugs and human scents while ignoring other smells, spinning blue lights or gunfire. He can find evidence and locate missing people.
During the initial phase of training, dogs are taught to retrieve tennis balls. The focus quickly changes to items similar to those which will be employed in law enforcement. A human touch leaves hundreds of skin cells on objects or clothing. Dogs can smell the object, remember the scent and track the human or object that the person has touched.
According to Rick, the value of the dog is in his nose, not his teeth.
“It’s just fun to take a new dog and teach him how to find dope, how to locate evidence or track people,” said Rick. “I know how a dog’s nose works, I know how they do it, but it’s just fun to do. I wouldn’t take anything for it.”
In addition to being a canine handler, Rick worked as patrol officer, member of the tactical team, detective, member of the honor guard, worked in the housing unit, and was Edward Team patrol lieutenant.
He was named Police Officer of the Year in 2006.
Rick was especially moved when he was selected as part of a delegation from High Point Police Department who took part in a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
“In 2008 he was honored to participate in the Laying of the Wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” said his wife Karen Rodden Dietz. “This was significant for Rick whose father, Ret. Navy Master Chief Richard Dietz Sr. and mother Shirley Ann Dietz are buried there.”
Rick, an avid outdoorsman, also appreciates his time with family. The couple have two daughters and three grandchildren. He and Karen are members of Archdale United Methodist Church. Both enjoy traveling and exploring historic sites such as Williamsburg, Va. and Gettysburg, Penn.
Rick finds his retirement career rewarding, especially when he hears from handlers about the dogs he has trained.
Rick Queen, a natural resource enforcement ranger for the Cherokee Nation in the western part of the state, recently telephoned about an alumni dog named Bogie, a tracker who locates narcotics and evidence. Bogie is often called on to assist neighbor agencies which do not have canine officers.
In July, Rick Queen and Bogie were dispatched to the Appalachian Trail to locate a missing hiker.
“They asked us for a tracking dog, so we first went to the area where the hiker was last seen and picked up the track from there,” Rick Queen said.
The man, who had fallen and broken both legs, was located in about half an hour. Thanks to Bogie’s keen sense of smell, the hiker was located before nightfall and, with medical treatment, made a complete recovery.
In September, Bogie located a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s and was missing overnight.
“I wouldn’t take anything for Bogie,” his handler said.
Rick Dietz tries not to get attached as he trains dogs, but sometimes it’s hard.
While checking on dogs in the kennel, Rick laughed as a Labrador in a stall made contented whines while wallowing around on its back.
“These dogs are tough, they’re strong and they’re courageous,” said Rick. “They are highly trained, but, at the end of the day, it’s still a dog.
“When a dog is able to find a suspect, that’s neat. You catch a bad guy who thinks he’s got away, or you find evidence that the suspect thinks is hidden.
“I think it’s also cool when the dog finds that Alzheimer’s patient, hiker or lost kid.”