County Gets New K-9 Officer Named ‘Kilo’ | News, Sports, Jobs
The Faribault County Sheriff’s Department welcomed its newest and youngest employee to its staff on Wednesday, April 6.
In fact, at only 17 months, he is much younger than all the other officers working for the department. He is also faster and can do much better than his colleagues.
It also has four legs and a tail.
Kilo, a Belgian Malinois, is the newest member of the K-9 unit and is paired with Deputy Brittney Gehrking who is his handler.
Historically, Belgian Malinois have been herding dogs, but have also been used as service dogs, companion dogs, guard dogs and, as in Kilo’s case, police dogs.
Kilo replaces Zeus, who was the first dog in Faribault County’s K-9 unit.
“You could say that Zeus is semi-retired,” Gehrking comments. “He is still available and we are maintaining his certification.”
Gehrking came to the department in 2014.
“I have always had dogs growing up” she notes. “There was an incident at the Golden Bubble south of Wells in 2016 that led me to start gathering information on the cost and training required to have a K-9 unit.”
She thanks her superiors for supporting the idea.
“I had an idea this might be a good idea and just needed the courage to ask my bosses. Mike (Sheriff Mike Gormley) and Scott (Chief Deputy Scott Adams) were amazing and supported the idea, Gehrking said. “I already owned Zeus and had him evaluated by a police canine trainer who said Zeus would be perfect for the job.”
Zeus is currently seven years old.
“Most police dogs retire in this age range of 6 to 8 years old,” Gehrking shares. “Being a police dog is hard work.”
She also explains that Zeus had OCD lesions (a type of inflammatory condition) in his shoulders which were repaired before he became a K-9.
“He’s got arthritis in those shoulders,” explains Gehrking. “It’s not noticeable during exercise, but it bothers him more during his recovery period.”
Besides being different races, there is another important difference between Zeus and Kilo.
“Zeus is trained to detect marijuana while Kilo is not”, Notes by Gehrking. “The reason is that if marijuana became legal, the dog would kind of become obsolete.”
She notes, however, that even if a law is passed to legalize marijuana, the drug will still be illegal in schools and some other places, so Zeus would be available to help.
Zeus and Kilo have other skills besides drug detection.
“They are trained to find narcotics and they are great, but they also do item searches, follow ups and are there to protect their handler,” explains Gehrking. “I have a remote control to release the dog from the vehicle if I get in trouble or if I am threatened.”
She says Zeus’ ability to track people is second to none.
“I was involved in a high-speed chase in January 2020. A guy had stolen a vehicle and crashed out of my line of sight and then fled,” she comments. “Zeus followed the suspect for over an hour before he arrived in a hangar and started showing various behavioral signs. I was assisted by another officer and we found the suspect in the building. Dogs are not only looking for human scent, they are also looking for floor disturbances.
Gehrking shares narcotics detection and tracking are the main uses of the K-9 unit in this field.
“Most narcotics calls come from a vehicle stop when an officer calls for help,” it offers. “If the dog is alert, then there is likely reason to search the vehicle.”
Gehrking says the majority of police dogs are imported from Europe when they are between one and one and a half years old, and police dogs can be either male or female.
“Kilo came from Missouri and I started training him as a young puppy,” she declares. “I use fake narcotics to train him. He’s a smart dog. Normally dogs are trained to sit when they find the narcotics. Kilo didn’t need training and had no only 14 weeks when he was sitting down when he found the smell.
And what about other people petting Kilo?
“When he works, I don’t allow others to pet him”, she answers. “If he’s on a break, a person should ask permission to pet him, just like you should any dog.”
She also shares Kilo is a bit more intense than a normal dog.
“He needs to be mentally stimulated. I have to keep him busy or he will become destructive while chewing,” Gehrking offers.
Gehrking and Kilo have just completed a four-week training course in Forrest City, Iowa.
“It took place at the Tree Town Kennels Police Dog Training School,” she notes. “It started on March 7 and the graduation was on April 1. There were a total of five teams there. The first week and a half was spent in narcotics training in vehicles and in rooms .
Once they were certified in the narcotics program, they moved on to tracking and protecting dog handlers before completing item searches.
“The most valuable part of a dog’s skill is its ability to track scent,” says Gehrking. “They can smell odors through the Ziplock bags.”
The training does not stop once the course is over.
“The training is constant. In addition to the training I do with him here, we have to spend 16 hours a month with the K-9 training group in Iowa,” explains Gehrking. “I must keep training logs and deployment logs that can be discovered by the courts if needed.”
Spending so much time with Zeus and Kilo made her very aware of their differences.
“Kilo is more intense. He would do anything for his toys. His favorite is a squeaky ball,” it offers. “Zeus has very good manners at home and can enter offices.”
Gehrking says both dogs take corrections very well.
“They will always test their limits like any dog or child will,” she said laughing. “When I correct them, I have to make sure they know what they did wrong.”
Even though the constant training involves a lot of work, Gehrking stresses that she always has fun with her dogs.
“I may be a little biased, but I think I have the best job at the sheriff’s office,” she remarks. “There’s nothing better than when another officer calls you and asks for K-9 help.”