New K-9 joins Sheriff’s Department

Nikko, an Ottawa County Sheriff's Department K-9 officer, was getting up in years - so, when her handler got an opportunity for a promotion, he took it. Three-and-a-half-years later, a new opening came up in the K-9 unit and Deputy Jeff Somers threw in his name. "I loved doing the job, so I put in for the spot,' he said. Somers had to give up his position as a sergeant. He also had to come up with funds to acquire the dog.
Becky Vargo
Apr 1, 2011

 

“We’ve had a K-9 program here for 25 years,” Somers said, “but there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay for a new dog.

A partially trained dog for a new handler would cost around $16,000, he said.

“We bought an untrained dog for $10,000,” Somers said. “I’m training it here. That keeps me in the community.”

Coming up with the funds became a family affair. After he started talking to family members about getting a dog, Somers said three area businesses put up the funds: Rycenga Building Center, Harbor Steel and Pell’s Farm Service of Fremont. The relatives associated with the businesses are Somers’ uncle, John Rycenga; aunt, Carol Folkert, owner of Harbor Steel; and father-in-law, Rod Pell.

“It shows community support, but it’s personal too,” Somers said.

In late January, Somers brought home his new German shepherd, Ranger, from Vhoreliche Kennels in Indiana. The dog is bred to do police work, Somers said.

“He needs to be a very high-drive working dog,” the deputy explained. “He never calms down. He never lays down. You have to have lots of energy to work with this kind of dog. You have to know how to channel and work with his drive.”

When Somers went to the kennel, the owner had picked out 20 dogs — out of the 200 at the kennel — based on the deputy’s list of requirements. Somers ran the dogs through a series of tests, including one for high drive.

“Will this dog be crazy for a ball? Will it chase a ball all day?” Somers said.

Somers said the dog has to be social and not have issues around gunfire or other dogs. Two of the dogs passed the test and Ranger got the nod.

“I had more of a bond with the one I picked,” Somers said.

The 3-year-old dog has been doing “phenomenal” in his training and Somers expected him to be ready for certification this week.

“I can’t believe how fast he is learning compared to my last dog,” Somers said. “But like anything — when you know what you’re doing, it goes well.”

But Ranger hasn’t been sitting on his haunches the last couple of months during his training.

“He’s been out on narcotics searches,” Somers said. “We’ve done a building search and had a (breaking and entering) in progress in a church in Marne.”

The deputy said they had their first opportunity to actually track a suspect at a breaking-and-entering incident in the middle of the day at a home in Holland.

“When we got there, the dog is barking like crazy,” Somers said. “I got the dog out of the car and was just starting to track, but the guy came right out of the woods.”

Somers said it was cool that the suspect realized the dog was there and didn’t try to run. “He said, ‘That’s it. I give up,’” the deputy said of the suspect.

The 73-pound dog is also wonderful with the family, Somers said.

“I have three kids,” he said. “The kids can all pet him and play with him.”

Somers said the same doesn’t go with the dogs.

“They both want to be with me,” he said of his 13-year-old dog, Nikko, and Ranger. “So there is a little bit of jealousy.”

Somers said Ranger accompanies him all of the time when he is on patrol.

“You’re apt to be called out anytime,” he said, although it probably averages out to one call each week.

At home, Ranger stays in an outdoor kennel, which actually helps keep the dog sharp, Somers said.

 

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