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December 24, 2013 - 5:33pm

'Destro' takes on new job with a dogged enthusiasm

posted by Howard B. Owens in K-9, Sheriff's Office, Destro.

"Destro" likes people. He likes the snow. His favorite toy is a piece of old fire hose. But don't let the puppy disposition of the 2-year-old German shepherd fool you. He's a trained police dog, capable on command of doing all the things police dogs do.

If you meet Destro, you're likely to make a new friend, but let him approach you. Just to be safe.

"He's good," said his new handler and partner in crime-fighting Deputy Chris Erion. "He gets on my nerves once in awhile and I get on his, but we're a good match. He works very well."

Yesterday was the first day on the job for the new K-9 team after Erion and Destro completed 15 weeks of K-9 police dog academy.

"We start with a brand new dog who has almost zero training and we start right from the beginning," Erion said. "That way we know how he's trained, how he learns certain things. If problems come up, we know how to correct them, so it's a lot of long classes."

The 15-week course covered training in the areas of building and open area searches, obedience, tracking, drug detection, and handler protection.

The hardest part of the training, Erion said was "just sticking to it and getting up every morning."

"I got up at 4:30 every morning to get to Canada by 7:30 and I didn't get up home (until) 6:30, 7 o'clock at night and then my kids and wife needed attention, too, so balancing all of that was a challenge."

Destro gets along well with Erion's four children, the deputy said. "And he's kind of brought new life to my old German shepherd. They run around outside and play. They get along very well."

Erion and Destro start their new career together just as the K-9 handling career of Deputy Brian Thompson comes to a close. Thompson and "Pharoah" still are available to handle calls and help with the new team's training, but in about 10 months "Pharoah" will be retired from active duty.

Erion said he's grateful to the community support to help keep the Sheriff's Office K-9 program going.

"This program is completely funded by the community and we're certainly grateful for that," Erion said. "I'm personally grateful for that. There's an expense that goes into training and maintaining the dog, and that comes from donations. Without that we wouldn't be able to support the program."

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