By Riley Holsinger
(Editor’s Note—Sgt. Susan Mitter is shown with Dixie, her 9 year old Bloodhound. Dixie is retired from the Sheriff’s Dept., but is currently working in a search and rescue group. Mitter is employed at Preston County Sheriff’s Dept. in West Virginia. She graduated from South Cameron High School in 1997 and is the daughter of Larry and Orelia Abshire of Grand Chenier.)
On June 8, a law enforcement couple from the Preston County Sheriff’s Department made history as K-9 trainers.
Lt. Thomas Mitter and Sgt. Susan Mitter became the first pair of West Virginia master trainers in the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) who are also a married couple.
With the NAPWDA accreditation, they can train and certify any K-9 team, including K-9 handler and dog, in the United States.
The process to become a master trainer wasn’t the Mitters’ normal walk in the park with one of their five dogs. The pair said they trained approximately 35 dogs and had to put in countless hours of training and studying.
“It’s something we’ve both worked for now for about eight years,” Susan said.
“We spent probably every night for the last eight or six months,” Thomas said. “Hours just reading notes, and medical journals and all kinds of training materials on dogs just so we can answer half the questions that these guys are capable of because they’re all senior guys in our field, and they know this stuff in and out and they expect you to know it in and out.”
They didn’t even know they were the first married couple to reach this until later in the process.
“Actually, they brought it up to us at the board,” Thomas said. “It was a big deal to them once we made the accomplishment. They said we never had a husband and wife team in the organization that we know of ever.”
“Yeah, that wasn’t something we were concerned with, it was the stress of getting it done,” Susan said.
“We weren’t even concerned with being the first master trainers in West Virginia ever.”
After spending countless hours to reach the master trainer certification, the Mitters are looking at this big accomplishment as just another common stage in their lives together.
“It’s cool, but for us, we’ve both been in the military together, we met in the military, we’ve been in law enforcement together now for 20 years as husband and wife. So for us, it’s just kind of a common thing,” Susan said.
Although it is a “common thing” for the Mitters, it certainly is a very fitting achievement for the family since they’re both dog lovers.