Riaan and Velle – A Tail of Triumph
Partners for life
Warrant Officer R.Q. Victor has been in the force for the past 18 years, starting out as a patrol/explosive dog handler. Riaan was interested in fire investigation and decided to attend the fire investigation course in Roodeplaat. He attempted the course with three different dogs but none of them passed. He also didn’t feel or make the necessary connection with the dogs he trained with and was still looking for that special furry companion.
While Riaan was trying to find the perfect canine match, a two-year-old Wire Hair/Irish/Scottish Terrier cross was roaming the rural areas of Limpopo. A good Samaritan walking along the street saw the starved dog eating scraps off the pavements and picked her up and nursed her back to health. He called her Velle because she was only skin (in Afrikaans – “velle”) and bone when she was found. She was later donated to the police dog training unit since she showed a high drive, good focus and proved to be highly intelligent. Velle later became a back-up for the narcotics class. A friend of Riaan heard that he was looking for a dog to complete the fire investigation course and suggested he try the course with Velle. They met and the rest is history.
Passing with flying colours
Velle, the smallest of all the dogs currently in the Port Elizabeth K9 unit, proved to be the biggest asset, not only to the police force but also to Riaan and they are inseparable. Their story began with them completing the six-month fire investigation course in 2013. Velle
passed the course at the top of her class with a whopping 98.8%. She is now one of only two fire investigation dogs in the Eastern Cape and one of only 17 in the whole of South Africa. Velle only took four weeks to learn the identification of accelerants, a process which usually takes an average dog up to eight weeks.
While most of the dogs in the police force are larger breeds, the much smaller Velle makes up what she lacks in size with skill, intelligence and attitude. She has been trained to identify a variety of accelerants, including petrol, diesel, paraffin, spirits and thinners, and can smell it in diluted form up to three micro litres.
Getting the job done
Riaan and Velle work closely with forensic investigators. When a fire is reported, the two of them are called out and their job then is to understand where, how and why the fire started.
Because of her size, some people don’t believe that Velle is a police dog when they first see her, so Riaan has had a special collar made for her with the word “Police” printed on it so she can be easily identified. She has become so attached to her special collar that if Riaan takes it off and puts it on another dog she runs to that dog and attempts to pull it off. On their off days, Velle likes to watch TV and play with her best friend, Riaan. She is very attached to her human partner and loves being by his side.
Velle never takes her eyes off Riaan and it’s plain for all to see that this is a match made in heaven!