2012 has been an eventful year for the K-9 Unit. We experienced the promotion of our K-9 Unit supervisor, John Reynolds, to Lieutenant, who passed on the responsibility to Sergeant Ryan Hushaw. We also experienced handler replacements, a dog’s retirement, and taught a portion of this year’s skills training.
On March 5th 2012, John Reynolds was promoted to Sheriff’s Lieutenant after serving approximately seven years as a Sheriff’s Sergeant. He served as the K-9 Unit sergeant for approximately four of those years. As is the case with any unit, it’s hard to see a well-liked supervisor leave. However, we as a unit support Lieutenant Reynolds in his new assignment and wish him the very best in this new chapter of his career. With his promotion, left a vacancy and the search for a new canine sergeant commenced. Sergeant Ryan Hushaw was selected as the new K-9 Unit supervisor shortly thereafter. Sergeant Hushaw was a prior K-9 handler for approximately six years and left the unit in 2008 for a detective position. He served a short time in the Air Support Unit and was promoted to sergeant in November of 2010. Sergeant Hushaw took over as the K-9 Unit supervisor on May 1st, 2012 and has hit the ground running. He’s been faced with a dog and handler’s retirement from the unit, selection of a new handler, coordinating the latter portion of 2012 skills training, and he has also taken on the project of remodeling the current K-9 training field that we as a unit hope to call home in the near future.
Deputy Todd Burk was welcomed in to the unit towards the end of 2011 and was certified for the streets in the beginning of 2012. Deputy Burk was partnered with K9 “Niko,” whom he worked with for a short time. Unfortunately, Niko showed deficiencies in his performance that were unable to be corrected via training and he was therefore removed from service. A search for a replacement dog resulted in the selection of K-9 “Kajo,” (pronounced Kay-Joe) from Adlerhorst International Inc. Adlerhorst has been in business for 37 years and is based out of Riverside, California. They have a great reputation and are nationally known. Kajo is a three year old, dual-purpose Belgian Malinois, trained in explosive detection and patrol work. We look forward to adding him to the ranks.
In May of 2012, Deputy Jeff Stricker and K9 “Nero” both retired from the K-9 Unit after six years of service. Deputy Stricker and Nero were one of the best K9 teams in the unit. Their experience, knowledge, and commitment they offered to the team will greatly be missed. They were a model K-9 team and we wish them the best of luck in their well deserved retirement from the unit. With Jeff and Nero’s retirement, it has left an opening in the unit for a handler and a search for a replacement handler is in the making.
The 2012 Skills Training stretched from January to June and what can I say; In the roughly ten years that I have been with the Sheriff’s Office, I have never seen or heard of the canine unit participating in Skills training. This year was a first for all of the handlers in the unit. Deputy Scott Schwamb and I were tasked with teaching the four hour block of instruction related to K-9 operations and deploying in the field with a Sheriff’s K-9. Overall I would say skills was a success and we received a lot of positive feedback from our peers and immediate supervisors. The K-9 Unit would like to thank all of you for your patience, participation, and feed back during the classroom instruction and live demonstrations. We hope we were able to offer you necessary information and answer any questions regarding deployments you may have had. If any questions were left unanswered, please feel free to ask any one of the unit’s handlers.
Since the completion of skills training, the K-9 Unit has seen a rise in K-9 requests, which was one of our goals in teaching at skills this year. As a reminder, we are here to support patrol operations. Our mission is to hunt and locate wanted persons and nothing can do the job like the nose of a well-trained service dog. We are always available to assist with the service of search/arrest warrants, attempt pick-ups, or any other calls for service that you believe the use of a dog would be beneficial. And don’t forget; the psychological effect of the mere presence of a canine often times will greatly reduce the need for a use of force incident, hopefully preventing injury to deputy and suspect.
On a different note, the canine unit has been without a training field to call their home for quite some time. The current training field is in such disrepair that it is not safe or practical for the K-9 Unit to use as a training location. The current section of land that incorporates the training field is located behind (north of) Range #6 and is adjacent to the railroad tracks, surrounded by an old chain link fence. The field will need to be torn down, re-graded, and have new grass installed. It will also require a new chain link fence on all four sides for safety and containment purposes, electrical work for lighting, plumbing for sprinklers, and various other materials to create an obstacle course for the dogs that is standard at all K-9 training fields. The unit has begun accepting donations from private parties (via the Sheriff’s Foundation) and is being assisted by Fig Garden home-owner and avid Sheriff’s Office Supporter, Frances Morrison. Frances is very motivated and has made it a personal goal of hers to assist in raising enough funds to see our “field of dreams” come to fruition. Anyone interested in donating, or who knows someone who may be able to assist with material and/or labor, is asked to contact Sergeant Ryan Hushaw or any current K-9 handler.
Lastly, our unit said goodbye this month to K-9 “Max,” who passed due to health related issues. Max was able to enjoy a few good years after retirement and was well-known for his hard bite work, yet docile nature, earning him the nickname “Eeyore.” He was first brought in to service in 2003 as a dual-purpose explosive detection and patrol dog, handled by Deputy Julie Williams. He was also partnered with Deputy IV Todd Talent and Deputy IV Brad Gattie during his time in the unit, prior to retirement. Max was an integral part of the K-9 Unit and we praise him for his service.
With the ever-changing department and our unit, one thing remains the same; we all go home at the end of our shifts. Be safe, train hard and take care of one another. And don’t forget, we’re here if you need us!