THE idea of having a K9 unit at Resorts World Genting (RWG) dates back to 1970 when security guard Jerry Newton was on his nightly round with Nero, his pet German Shepherd.

At the time, the late founder of Genting Highlands, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, was also taking a late night stroll. When the two met, Nero sprang at the late founder with his fangs bared but immediately obeyed an order by Newton to stop.

This incident sparked Lim’s interest in establishing a K9 unit. Thus, the RWG auxiliary police K9 unit was born.

Command trainings helps to prepare police dogs to listen and take commands from officers to take the appropriate actions during dangerous chases.

“Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong was very interested in the ability of dogs after that incident,” said Inspector Val Santhanarajo. “But establishing the K9 unit here was no walk in the park. It requires a deep love and dedication for dogs, perseverance and forbearance.

“Cadets get bitten, dragged down and scratched. The training of the K9 unit is tougher than military training. However, their efforts are repaid handsomely with the unwavering love and loyalty of the dogs they train.”

While the popular image of K9 units is that of ferocious canines used to subdue suspects and detect illicit substances, their duties in the context of hotels include sniffing out bugs.

The K9 unit dogs are trained to specialise in different areas such as crime patrol, tracking and general detection. For crime patrol, the dogs are trained to know when to chase and when to attack.

For tracking, the dogs are trained to track items such as narcotics and explosives. For general detection, the dogs are trained to detect items in a crowded public space while behaving well.

The dogs at the RWG auxiliary police unit are trained to understand commands in both English and Bahasa Malaysia.

The K9 unit has its own breeding programme, using dogs from European countries. German Shepherds form the bulk, being a strong and intelligent breed long associated with the police forces. Their intimidating appearance is a deterrent to potential criminals.

Santhanarajo is one of the longest-serving staff members at the K9 unit. Having served at the hotel and other sections of RWG’s security department since 1986, he received a transfer to the K9 unit in 1991 after five years working as an auxiliary police.

Since 1995, he has served as the unit’s chief officer. No stranger to dogs, Santhanarajo has two furry friends of his own at home, a Chihuahua and a German Shepherd. His love for dogs is a passion that drives his work at the K9 unit.

He also found an unlikely teacher in one of the dogs he was training – Rocky, a German Shepherd. The inspector was warned that Rocky was a “hard dog” by the other trainers, a term that meant the dog was difficult to train and had a short supply of trainers willing to take him under their wing.

Undeterred, Santhanarajo took on the challenge of training Rocky. It was no piece of cake, but the training succeeded, and Santhanarajo now says that Rocky trained him to be a better trainer.

The K9 unit is currently looking to expand its capacity, to ensure the continued safety of operations at RWG.

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