Sophie is man’s best friend, and one of criminals’ worst nightmares
November 30, 2010
Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University Police Officer John Rogacki has been a "dog person" since he was a youngster growing up near O'Hare Airport during the 1960s.
"I used to bring rabbits home all the time," he said. "I would find garter snakes where Ridgewood High School is. It was a swamp back then."
When asked if she was a "human person," Sophie, Rogacki's K-9 partner, had no comment.
"Actually, she is very friendly," Rogacki said. "A lot of students come up to her and pet her and play with her. They might have a dog at home and miss their pet, so I will bring Sophie around to some of the residence halls or Founders' Woods apartments. Spending a few minutes with her eases some of the pressures that mount during the day."
Sophie is the Benedictine University Police Department's latest addition. She is utilized by the department as a public relations representative and educational resource. However. the two-year-old Golden Retriever also serves a more serious purpose within the department – providing a safe environment for students, staff and faculty.
Sophie has been trained to detect illegal drugs.
Sophie is one of the youngest dogs in Illinois to be certified as a canine officer. She began her training at five months and continues to train at least one hour every day with Rogacki and three hours weekly at Tops Canine Complex in Grayslake under the guidance of expert canine trainer Alex Rothacker.
"There is a lot of work involved," Rogacki said. "Even the hour training every day is very intense. But once they master the art of detection, they never lose it. They just get better and better at it, and they can continue to work until they are 10, 11 years old."
Rogacki said that Sophie's sense of smell is so acute that nearly everything a person does to mask the scent of marijuana, heroin or cocaine – everything from air fresheners to dryer sheets to scented candles to wrapping the drugs in plastic – is ineffective.
"The dogs are trained to filter everything else out," he said
Sophie is Rogacki's fourth dog in 24 years. He has been working with dogs since he started in the Norridge Police Department in 1986. He volunteered for K-9 duty and enlisted his personal dog, a Rotweiler, but that did not work out well.
"Rotweilers just are not meant for police work," he said. "So I bought a German Sherperd and it worked out nice."
Benedictine University students, faculty and staff have welcomed Sophie with open arms.
"The campus' response to Sophie has been overwhelmingly positive,' said Benedictine University Police Chief Michael Salatino.
"The University is the only suburban private institution in the region which has this type of resource and support," the chief added. "I envision our K-9 program expanding to augment surrounding law enforcement agencies and promoting an ongoing safe environment for our community."