Koda hopes to bring positive change to Thorsby High School

Published 3:15 pm Monday, July 18, 2022

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The Thorsby Police Department has partnered with Tru Mark K9 and Thorsby High School to bring a therapy dog into the school to help children cope and keep them safe.

Koda, an eight-month old Belgian Malinois, will serve as a therapy dog to help calm children in distress and have some tracking and narcotics detection abilities. Koda will be handled by school resource officer Josh Hubbard.

“(Little) said ‘I want to start a movement, I want to put dogs in schools and make schools safer,’” Hubbard said. “This is one way I think we can close the gap, which is a term we use a lot in training. We cannot seal off all of the bad, but we can close the gap, and this is one of the ways we were wanting to do that.”

Tru Mark K9 owner Jake Little, who donated Koda to the city, has had Koda since he was six weeks old and bred the litter he was in. Little’s father trained dogs for many years, and Little fell in love with the dogs when he helped. Then, he turned that love into a career with Tru Mark K9.

“Each dog is different, and it is fun for me to try to get inside that dogs head and see what make it tick and work and see that dog progress into something,” Little said. “It is kind of like a puzzle that you have to put together.”

Tru Mark started off as wanting to provide personal protection dogs for families, but progressed into training when he saw the need for them increase.

Hubbard was attending a new church when Little was one of the guest speakers. The two knew each other from grade school, and Little said he was working with dogs. The old friends mentioned mutual friends they knew at Thorsby who were wanting a dog for the school, and the process began of acquiring Koda.

“I think the kids will like it. If it can be used for any reasons that help calm children down or therapy in way to them, it would be great,” Thorsby Police Chief Rodney Barnett said. “I support it, and we think it will go over well and be a good thing for Thorsby.”

Little said his dogs are trained on a three-level tier. The first level is “strictly therapy. That is all the dog is,” Little said.

Level two is “the dog has a temperament to be a therapy dog where kids can come love on the dog and he is good with it, but he also has enough drive to where he can detect narcotics or be a tracking dog,” Little said.

Level three is a dual-purpose dog that will possess tracking and narcotics detection skills, but also suspect apprehension skills.

“(Koda) does not have the temperament that I would deem necessary to be a (level-three) dog.” Little said.

Koda will be a level two that will enjoy people’s attention but also help law enforcement in the community once his training is complete.

“He is great with kids, he does good in crowds,” Little said. “They spoke about wanting some tracking with him, and we started him into it. We just have to let him mature a little bit to finish that up.”

Little said the response from the Thorsby community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I think the community took to it a lot quicker and bigger than I ever thought it would,” Little said.

Hubbard added new graphics on his cruiser that has Koda’s name on the back window and some Thorsby High School logos and graphics.

“We want to be a part of the school, and we want kids to be able to come up and speak to the SRO or myself if they have a problem,” Barnett said.

Koda will be in the THS this upcoming school year.