Residents pick Tracker
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Winning by nearly a landslide - 939 votes to be exact - and receiving votes from as far away as Japan, the new name for the Brewton Police Department's drug canine was announced on the school grounds of Brewton Middle School.
The 14-month-old German shepherd who came all the way from the Netherlands will now be known as “Tracker.” The winning students in Mrs. Cheryl Bagwell's fifth grade class shrieked with excitement as Police Chief Monte McGougin read aloud the results.
Emily Boshell, a student in Bagwell's class, was the actual student who came up with the initial name of the dog.
For the last week, students in the fifth grade DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) classes have been campaigning hard for their chosen name to win. The students asked on the community to help them choose the name for the drug canine. Among the names the community had to choose from were Max, Smokey, Buddy, Chico, Tracker and Charlie. By the end of the day on Monday, 1,482 votes had been cast online and via post office mail.
For several days, Tracker and Chico were neck in neck. However, over the weekend, 674 votes had been cast online, 651 of those votes went to Tracker. Asked how Tracker received so many votes, the kids said Wednesday that their parents helped them network and get the word out that a dog needed a name.
However, votes weren't just coming from this town. Lauren Cook said that her aunt asked her friends all the way in Japan to vote on the dog name.
For the past six weeks, the canine, who has informally been called Chewey during his training period, has been in Pensacola for training. He will be joining the police department in one week. Handler and Officer Jason Yoder has been working consistently with the dog. The dog lives with Yoder and goes to work everyday with him.
McGougin said that Tracker will be with the police department for five to six years, which is the expected work life expectancy for a drug canine, he said. Tracker has the ability to track marijuana, crack cocaine, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines, and all of his commands are given in German.
Lt. Feast Broughton, who teaches the DARE classes, was giving the students a pizza party on Wednesday for the whole fifth grade as a reward for all their hard work.
DARE is a police officer led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives. The program was founded in 1983 and is now being implemented in nearly 80 percent of the nation's school districts and in more than 54 countries around the world. Lt. Broughton has been teaching the program for 11 years.