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Former tracking dog handler's multiple sclerosis diagnosis led him down a new path in life
Kevin Kocher pets Maggie, who tracks for Spotsylvania.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By LAURA L. HUTCHISON
Kevin Kocher has come to view his multiple sclerosis
The law enforcement officer and longtime tracking-dog handler had developed his own training method, but never had time to sit down and figure out how to share it with others.
The diagnosis forced his retirement as a Spotsylvania County deputy sheriff. But it gave him time to put his Kocher Method into book form with the help of his wife, Robin, still a dog handler with Spotsylvania County.
The book has now been published in English, German and Russian, and Spanish and Italian translations are in the works.
"I was happy just doing my own thing," Kocher said. "But people were always asking me to write it down.
"It worked out for the best that I got MS, because, otherwise, I probably never would have written it down."
But once he did, the Kocher Method took off like a dog hot on a trail.
Kocher, 55, said the dogs are the ones who started it all. They showed him what they did. He just took the time to notice.
"My dog got me my job," he said.
When Kocher started out, as a volunteer with Chancellor Volunteer Fire Department, he'd go out on missing-persons calls.
"It wasn't organized like it is now," he said. "We'd basically get out there and start hollering the person's name."
Kocher decided working with a dog would be more efficient, and the fire company helped him get and train his first tracking dog.
"I had no professional experience," he said. "I was self-taught. Or, really, I let my dogs teach me."
That concept--of dog as teacher--wound up serving Kocher well.
As he and his dogs began having success with missing-persons cases, the Sheriff's Office called on him to work criminal cases. Then-Sheriff T.C. Waddy deputized Kocher, so he worked with Spotsylvania when he wasn't working his full-time job as a construction supervisor at the now-closed Lorton prison, then as a member of the Pentagon police force.
And when he wasn't doing those things, he was training new dogs.