BRIGHAM CITY -- They call him "the dog whisperer."
At least that's what the Brigham City Police Department has labeled him.
"I don't know what it is," a colleague said of Cpl. James Allen, a K-9 officer, "but he's able to see what a dog is thinking."
"He's like the dog whisperer of our area," said Cp/ Jared Glover, a fellow K-9 officer with the Brigham City force.
Glover remembered a time when he had trouble connecting with his police dog, Sebastian. "Allen sat me down -- face to face with the dog -- and "20 minutes later, we were like this," said Glover, crossing his fingers.
Glover also brought Allen to his home to see why his family pet, a Great Dane, was acting out of line.
Allen, a Clearfield resident, who is a 10-year veteran of the Brigham City police force, has been working about that long with police dogs. He said the understanding between a police dog and its handler is the ultimate animal-human bond.
"You have to trust each other to work effectively as a team," said Allen. "We're with our dogs virtually 24 hours a day -- not many people have that connection with dogs."
Allen said he is exactly where he wants to be, both personally and professionally.
"I'm living a dream," he said, "a boyhood dream."
Allen remembers being 8 or 9 years old and watching K-9 units train on military bases where he lived as an Air Force brat. That's when his dream of being a handler began.
Years ago, when Allen's K-9 partner retired, Brigham City budget limitations threatened to prevent him from working with a canine partner, as a new dog can costs more than $10,000.
But Allen wasn't ready to get out of K-9 patrol. So he found and purchased a Belgian Malinois pup, Enzo, and turned him over to the Brigham City Police Department for a $1 contract, but remained the dog's handler and trainer.
Enzo replaced Allen's longtime police dog, Chewbacca, who died in April 2011. Enzo's K-9 colleagues are Sebastian, an 8-year-old German shepherd, whose trainer is Glover, and Bo, a Belgian Malinois handled by Officer Ryan Hill.
Enzo has a shepherd look, but is fast, agile and athletic.
"They can do a lot of things the bigger shepherds can't do because of their (larger) size," said Glover.
At 1 1/2 years old, Enzo is already gaining notoriety.
"That dog was sniffing out drugs at nine weeks," Glover said. "He's got one heck of a nose on him."
"We're looking for certain drives in a dog -- prey drive, hunt drive, fight drive," Allen said.
And then there are some drives that are not wanted, such as "rank drive," when the dog has trouble taking orders from its handler.
"Using their natural drives and instincts -- that's how we get them to do everything we want them to do," Allen said. "The only thing we have our dogs do that doesn't come natural is obedience."
"They bite, they bark, they scratch," Allen said. "If they're doing a search, you can say goodbye to the interior of your Cadillac."
It's that huge intimidation factor that in part makes the K-9 so effective. If you're a suspect, the sight of Enzo, Sebastian or Bo bearing down on you is enough, Hill said.
"I give them (the suspects) a chance to give up," said Hill, "and in every case they have."
Though Allen, Hill and Glover have all had their share of bites during training exercises, the department reports no bites to suspects in its K-9 history.
The working police dogs are not loveable, and they're not pets -- just the way the handlers like it. The city even has a no-petting rule. Plus, the dogs are always on duty.
"Without a doubt he's a companion," says Glover, "But I do realize he's a tool on my belt. He's a living, breathing tool."
Three dogs for a community the size of Brigham City may seem like overkill.
"It's unusual to have so many dogs in such a small department," Allen said. Brigham City has 25 officers. "There are a lot of cities bigger than us that have one dog or no dogs at all. But our police administration really realizes the benefit of the dogs to the officers and the citizens."
The three officers are patrol officers first, K-9 handlers second. Still, there's plenty of work for the dogs, with searches for lost children, suspect apprehension and the ever-present narcotics threat.
"The dogs allow us things we can't really do as officers," said Allen.
The officers can walk the dogs around a suspect vehicle, and if the dogs "indicate on the vehicle," or show they've found a suspicious scent, "we don't need a search warrant, we just go off their indication. It saves a lot of time," Allen said.