Sea Shepherd Welcomes New “Recruits” to K9 Team in Galapagos & Gets Update from Retirees
Four dogs recently concluded their long journey from Holland to the Galapagos Islands. The remarkable dogs, Rony, Missy, Truus, and Xaver, were selected from many candidates in the Canine Center in Holland, for their particularly acute concentration and sense of smell.
Their job, undertaken in the interests of the environment and the preservation of all life, is to root out the movement of contraband wildlife products, specifically shark fins and sea cucumbers as well as other species, in airports and ships leaving the Galapagos archipelago. The trade in shark fins worldwide has grown to the point of threatening some species of sharks – vital apex predators to oceanic eco-systems – with extinction.
Ecuador’s K9 operations are widespread and include the search for lost people and for drugs, but the Environmental Unit, known locally as UPMA, is unique in its dedication to helping end the trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
Sea Shepherd has been operating in close cooperation with Ecuador’s Ministry of the Interior, and through the National Police of Ecuador, to acquire, train and care for K9 dogs since 2008.
Sea Shepherd welcomes the opportunity to continue working alongside the Ministry with the four new dogs who have arrived in place of former K9 officers Bosco, Cristina, Kevin, and Nico, all of whom have been retired to permanent homes in the U.S. with loving families. (See below for updates on the lives of these canine heroes and their fellow Galapagos retirees).
The Environmental Police have been keen to receive the new dogs and eight new qualified dog handlers have been specifically trained to provide care for and handle these uniquely trained “canine officers” in the Regional Center for Dog Training (CRAC) in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.
The dogs have enthusiastically explored their new environment in Galapagos. Missy, a coal black, brown-eyed Alsatian, spent her first moments on the islands rushing from new smell to new smell, even before taking her first drink of fresh water!
After undergoing an important inspection by the BioSecurity Agency, Missy spent seven days in a kennel, as the quarantine procedure demands, before being officially released to begin her important role helping to conserve wildlife and protect bio-diversity in the unique eco-system of the Galapagos Islands.
On November 19th in San Cristobal, a presentation of the new dogs to the township was held, including an exhibition of the dogs’ uncanny ability to detect a given smell. Dr. Godfrey Merlen, Director of Sea Shepherd Galapagos, was on hand at the event to stand in solidarity with the Environmental Police Unit for which the dogs do such vital work each day.
Life after Galapagos
Since 2010, Sea Shepherd Galapagos has been in charge of providing food, veterinary care and oversight for the dogs of the K9 unit. Upon completing their service for the oceans, the first dogs to retire were returned to Sea Shepherd, whose staff partnered with Seattle-based Lady’s Hope Dog Rescue to ensure that they would be adopted into the best of homes. In October 2013, Manotas was the first K9 officer to retire, traveling from Galapagos to Seattle, Washington. In May 2014, four more golden labs named Nico, Bosco, Kevin and Cristina retired and arrived in Seattle. Terminator, Luna and Jhonathan retired soon after in December 2014, joining Manotas and the other K9 retirees in a well-deserved life of rest, love, joy and play.
Sea Shepherd is thrilled to receive these updates and photos from the dogs’ adoptive families, who tell us that our former canine “crewmembers” are happy and healthy!
“We are currently living in the Netherlands and Manotas is doing really well! He loves his tennis balls, walks to the dog park to visit his friends, going to the beach and car rides. He is also very enthusiastic about treats and snacks. We have taken a few road trips to various spots in Europe so our dogs are well traveled. We have three dogs now, Manotas, Sally and Linus. Sally and Linus are both deaf and blind, but kind Manotas is wonderful with them. He is such a sweet soul, and we are very fortunate to have him.
Manotas got erlichia when he was in Galapagos so we have been managing that issue and he had TPLO surgery last September. He has recovered well and is a healthy vegan dog. TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery is performed on dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament (analogous to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans), for which Labradors are predisposed. Most dogs completely recover, as Manotas has.” – veteran Sea Shepherd crewmember Erwin Vermeulen and former Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Administrative Director, Susan Hartland
“Bosco is an amazing dog and my best buddy! He has such a sweet personality and is a true companion. Since I have no kids, it turns out all my pictures are of Bosco! Thanks again, Sea Shepherd, for bringing my friend Bosco into my life.” – Lance
“Cristina loves her life on Lopez Island! Since joining us in May of 2014, she has adjusted very well to her retirement. Her brother Tony was a little hesitant when she first joined the family, as he was very comfortable with his position as the only dog. However, he has grown to love his sister dearly, and looks for Cristina when he loses sight of her. Cristina had TPLO surgery in March , and this active dog was very bored during her three-month recovery. However, she is back to running, playing, and swimming after sticks in the ocean. The beach is a ten-minute walk from our house, and we go there almost every day. Christina gets super excited when I grab the leash. Of course, she loves tennis balls, as it appears all the Galapagos dogs do.” – Kathleen, former Sea Shepherd staff member
“Kevin is such a great dog. We love him so much and are so grateful that he came to us. Thank you for helping to make that happen – what an amazing gift! He is intelligent, serious and sweet – we have never met a dog like him! He watches everything and learns incredibly quickly, and yet, also rolls over for belly rubs and ear scratches like none other. I call him my “body buddy” because he is always right by my side and we do practically everything together – including car rides, which he adores. He also loves every kind of ball, both to chase and chew, and can't get enough of that cool green grass in the yard (although he has recently discovered that blueberry bushes are delicious. We go for many walks and beach playdates, and tug of war games in the yard fill our days.” – Chris and Steve
Kevin had to cut back on strenuous exercise as he was discovered to suffer from Exercise-Induced Collapse syndrome (EIC). EIC is a genetic syndrome, predominately occurring in Labrador Retrievers. Affected dogs show signs of muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and collapse when participating in strenuous exercise or activity. After the diagnosis, Kevin’s family has adjusted his activity level and we hear that he is now doing very well.
“When Nico first came to us he had heartworms. We took good care of him and are happy to say he is now heartworm negative. Sea Shepherd paid his vet fees for treatment, for which we are grateful. Our vets and their staff adore him – he is always a huge hit!
Nico now speaks fluent English, but loves it when our Spanish-speaking friends talk to him in Spanish. He enjoys eating, and his gums and coat are very healthy. Nico is an important member of our family and we love him dearly. He is a very happy dog, and from his days in the Galapagos he rides very well in a car, which is a huge bonus. His tail never stops wagging and he loves being touched and to be close to us at all times. Each morning he stretches and rubs his nose on the carpet and makes "Nico noises" before he goes out for his morning constitutional. Nico is a wonderful, precious and loving dog and we are now a family. Thanks so much for helping us get together with him. Ours and Nico's regards to all his Galapagan brothers and sisters in the Pacific Northwest.” – Jeanne and Dallas. Dallas was a team leader during Sea Shepherd’s Operation GrindStop 2014 campaign and was a leader with the 2012 Dam Guardian campaign.
“We absolutely love Jhonathan! He brings us such joy. He gets up around 5:00am and goes for a run with his dad at 6:00am. He loves tennis balls and water bottles – and he tries to take the bottles off the table to play with them. He likes to lay in the grass and in our shower (pebble floor), and goes for big runs with dad and walks with mom. We decided he has the biggest rump this side of Ecuador, and loves to share the bed and couch. My son is on the Autism spectrum, and he and Jhonathan have a very special bond. We feel very blessed to have such a great addition to our family! Thank you so much for taking such good care of Jhonathan and letting us be his forever family!
When Jhonathan goes for his walk or run each morning, he thinks he is still working and checks out all the cars for shark fins and sea cucumbers, also checking all ‘suspicious’ bushes and trash cans that he decides need a good once-over. He has his nose to the ground through puddles and wet grass, keeping our neighborhood safe from all criminal poachers that roam Bellevue! To date he has not found a single shark fin but that does not deter him from his daily patrols. Jhonathan has accepted our cat and we secretly think they like each other as we find them asleep in the same room when they don’t think we notice, but once he is awake he tries to chase our cat into her room. That worked for the first few months until the cat tired of this game and now holds her ground and will not move out of his charging way. Jhonathan feels he must be involved with all activities around the house and oversees our lives with a smile. We do not know who is having more fun each day, but we are sure glad he chose us to share his life with.” – Kristen, Mark and Tim
“Luna has been such a great addition to our family. She loves ear scratches and tummy rubs and sitting on the couch – and tennis balls, can't forget tennis balls! She is a counter-surfer extraordinaire, but we've finally figured just how far back things need to be on the counters before we leave for the day. We also have to take the knobs off our gas stove when we leave; she's managed to turn on the gas while we've been out (thank goodness our house didn't explode).
Luna and our other Lab Rupert get along well, though sometimes he gets a little jealous of having to share our attention. But overall he likes having another dog around. We're all happy that Luna has come into our life.” – Jennifer and Ted
“Our lives have been changed for the better since picking up Terminator. He is a wonderful addition to our family. I am certain that he had a very loving handler while in Ecuador, as he is a truly loving dog.
As with all the Galapagos dogs, he does love his tennis balls. He rarely leaves my side, wanting to help as much as he can. He has a sister, Honey, who has had to set him straight several times as to who is the top dog in our home. Terminator gives her a wide berth but we do sometimes find them laying or sleeping together. We want to thank again Sea Shepherd and Lady’s Hope Dog Rescue for giving us the opportunity to give Terminator a comfy retirement.” – Norm and Jeanette
All Photos: Sea Shepherd