GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Sheriff’s Office has a new K-9 team that joined the ranks this past week.
K-9 Deputy Thomas DeVries joined the Kent County Sheriff’s Office three years ago. When a position with the K-9 Unit opened up, he applied and was accepted.
He was paired with Zeke, a 1.5-year-old Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd mix from Hungary.
“He’s a working dog, so he’s got all the energy in the world. He’s eager to learn, and he’s very friendly and social,” DeVries said.
Trained in Dutch and English at Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana over the past six weeks, Zeke has learned narcotics detection, tracking, searching and bite work.
“(We) graduated that on October 20th, and this is our first week on the road at Kent County together,” DeVries said.
Their first day on the road was Monday and there was a learning curve for both of them.
“It was definitely a learning experience for both of us. He was not used to riding around in the car for 12 hours, so it … was probably pretty anxious for him,” DeVries said.
When Zeke and Devries are not being used in a law enforcement capacity during a shift, they visit county parks and parking lots to play fetch, work on training and take a break.
“He’s definitely out of the car more than he’s in the car throughout the shift,” DeVries said.
As the first-time handler and young dog continue to learn, training looks a little different than the intensive training down in Indiana.
“We certify once a year just to be certified to work the road. We also train on shift almost every day and then we have a team training where it’s a shift of just training every week as well,” DeVries explained.
And the training and guidance don’t stop at the sheriff’s office. Since joining the K-9 Unit, DeVries says he’s gotten a lot of support from handlers in the area.
“It’s been nothing but support. Handlers from all different departments throughout Kent County have all reached out to congratulate, offer guidance and help in any way that they can. It’s definitely a very tight-knit community,” DeVries said.
When the two are off the clock, DeVries brings Zeke home where he lives with his wife and their Golden Retriever.
“They’re best of friends. (Zeke) loves her. They run around all day long,” he said. “… We do a lot of playing ball in the backyard. Playing with our other dog and just hanging out and relaxing.”
The team joins nine other police dogs with the unit.