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New K-9 deputy joins 'the pack'

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Published:   |   Updated: August 5, 2013 at 10:19 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - The newest German shepherd to run with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit, does so with two main gears.

"Prey or play," said Cpl. Stephen Miller.

Which approach the 20-month-old Valor takes depends on the commands he receives from his handler, Deputy Jeff Andrews.

"We train them ourselves," Andrews said about the German-born canine, purchased by the sheriff's office for $8,200. "We train them in regular obedience, tracking, building searches, area searches, apprehension work, article retrieval and agility - a lot of agility."

Doing the majority of training is beneficial to both Andrews and Valor, Andrews said, since each has to rely upon and read each other's behaviors out in the field.

And the training is constant, Miller said. Soon Valor and Andrews will begin a nine-week drug work course.

"They'll go out and hide the narcotics, and he's going to have to read the dog's behavior when he finds the narcotics," Miller said. "He's going to be ahead of the game when he goes to school."

What one has to do to become a K-9 deputy is substantial, Miller said. Andrews had to first train with the K-9 Unit before being selected to join. Once selected, Andrews and Valor began their 640 hours of training April 8 in Pinellas County.

It's during the 12-hour training days spanning 16 weeks that a deputy decides whether this is what they truly want to do, Miller said. Andrew graduated July 25.

"I know it was a long, hard road for him," Miller said. "We have what we call a 'decoy' in training, and you basically get to be their bite boy through the night."

The long training is to mold a deputy to the position to see if they're right for the job and vice versa, Miller said, and training is constant throughout a K-9 deputy's career.

"Every year we have to certify with Florida Department of Law Enforcement standards," Miller said.

"(Andrews) had to show that a dog would bite, be proficient under gunfire, and do building searches before he could ever work the road."

"There's a lot more to the training aspect you don't realize, everything from catching, note taking and learning to lay tracks," Andrews said about training dogs to recognize and track human odor.

Valor is the second dog the sheriff's office has acquired in recent months since the unexpected death of K-9 deputy Ike, who died of a rare condition in which a dog's intestines become entangled, cutting off blood supply to its digestive system.

Ike was replaced by new canine Judge Topper, Miller said.

"An anonymous donor wanted the name Topper," Miller said. "We incorporated the 'Judge' in there."

Judge Topper is waiting to attend training before hitting the streets.

Thomas P. Dobies, of Dobies Funeral Home & Crematory in Pasco County, donated $5,000 toward Valor's purchase, according to the sheriff's office.

The donation was made in the honor and memory of Janet Andersen, who worked as Hernando County Sheriff's Office staff attorney for 24 years during sheriffs Tom Mylander and Richard Nugent's tenures.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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