By Marisa Patwa
The Warrick County Standard
The Warrick County Sheriff's Office is now a little furrier with the addition of the department's new K9, Dex.
Dex, a 1-year-old German Shepard from Slovakia, completes the WCSO's need for at least three full-time pups.
Warrick County Sheriff Mike Wilder said they do their best to match the personality of the deputies with their dogs.
"First, we ask the officers if they want a K9," he said. "And then we try to pick an officer that is motivated and doing a good job."
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And there was no hesitation for Kyle Vallad, 25, to partner up with Dex.
"I showed interest and one of the things I did in the past was work with the K9 Unit being a decoy, helping them out with anything they needed, going to monthly trainings," Vallad said. "And it was something I've wanted to do since I was small. My grandpa bred bird-hunting dogs and I've been around dogs all of my life."
Vallad and Dex just completed an eight-week course in Evansville run by a retired police officer, and the team is officially out on patrol.
"Some days it was six days a week," Vallad said of the training. "We would start off with tracks. We do a lot of narcotic work. We do a lot of bite work. We do a lot of work with the United States Police Canine Association, which we certify with every year."
Vallad said Dex was a pro during the training.
"He did well," Vallad said. "He finished top dog."
The partnership between Vallad and Dex does not end at clock-out time. The deputy takes the dog home with him, and luckily, Dex gets along with Vallad's two other dogs at home, a German Shepherd and a Chihuahua.
"We're a family," Vallad said.
Wilder said K9s are a huge asset to the WSCO.
"They have the opportunity to smell out illegal drugs and track someone who an officer can't," he said. "Sometimes in a situation where the officer was suspicious, a dog can do an outer search of the vehicle. The dog can also indicate right where to go instead of us searching for an hour. They have definitely developed cases for us."
This is due to their incredible sense of smell.
"His sense of smell is 50 times stronger than ours," Vallad said of Dex and other K9s. "If someone lost an item or we were looking for a piece of evidence, he can locate that in a matter of seconds to minutes, whereas it could take us hours to search a big patch of grass."
According to Wilder, the puppies are also great incentives for criminals on the run to stop and turn themselves in.
"They help in apprehension," Wilder said. "Sometimes when people are hiding, they just give up because they don't want to get bit. They also help keep a situation from getting potentially more violent because of people giving up."
The WSCO also uses the dogs as a tool to connect with the community.
"We use them publicly and it's great for us to reach out to the community with the dogs," Wilder said. "We do a lot of programs at the schools and with the Boy Scouts. We'll have them at National Night Out to demonstrate how they work."
Wilder said Dex makes up the third K9 they have.
"One is set to retire at the end of the year in October," he said. "So we are going to buy another one at the end of the fall and do new training."
And in order to purchase one of those dogs, which cost $16,500, the WSCO holds multiple fundraisers a year.
"Our K9s have always been funded through the public for some reason," Wilder said. "So we did the Castle North dodgeball fundraiser and a barbeque cook out a while back."
One of their biggest fundraisers of the year that is put on by the Warrick FOP is the Thrift Store Prom, which will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Warrick FOP for $25 a ticket. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/2251229448528374/.
Although Dex will only be with the WSCO for less than10 years, as most dogs retire after eight, he will forever remain a part of their family, while becoming a permanent one of Vallads.
"The deputies all have the option to keep the dog once they retire," Wilder said. "I don't think we've ever had an officer never not keep their dog."
And Vallad is keeping up with that tradition.
"Oh yeah, he's ours forever," Vallad said. "We're keeping him."
Wilder said most importantly, these superhero-esque K9's keep their officers safe.
"They protect the officers in dangerous situations where maybe it wouldn't be safe for the officer to go in somewhere," he said. "It's huge for us."