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Humboldt Sheriff’s Office welcomes K-9

2-year-old Dutch shepherd joins department

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Shillington is the handler for the department’s new K-9, a Dutch shepherd named Rooster. Shillington has trained Rooster since he was a puppy and Rooster joined the department in early April.

HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s newest deputy is a little short, kind of loud, could probably use a haircut and is prone to fleas.

Rooster, a 2-year-old Dutch shepherd, joined the department last month after being trained by and certified with Deputy Andrew Shillington for the past two years.

Shillington said the sheriff’s office hadn’t had a working dog since around 2008 and shortly after he joined the department in early 2019, he presented Sheriff Dean Kruger with the idea of adding a K-9. Shillington, who started his law enforcement career as an officer for the Humboldt Police Department in 2012, also spent time as a K-9 handler for the Ida County Sheriff’s Office and had been certified to train police working dogs.

Kruger agreed and Shillington got Rooster as a 9-week-old puppy in May 2019 and started his training. His first day of duty for the department was April 1.

“As part of the agreement, he’s technically no longer my dog,” Shillington explained. “I trained him, I raised him, I donated him to the sheriff’s office and he now belongs to the sheriff’s office.”

But as handler for the K-9, Rooster spends his time on duty with Shillington and goes home with him each night.

“Any time I’m on duty, he’s on duty,” Shillington said.

The two are also on call 24/7, so if another deputy needs Rooster to help out, they get a call, day or night.

“He is trained to find narcotics and he’s trained to apprehend bad guys,” Shillington said. Rooster is also trained in tracking and evidence recovery.

A month-and-a-half into the job, Rooster has already gotten to show off what he can do.

“He has a couple of finds already, which are really good for our confidence as a team, as well as to show the boss that he can do his job,” Shillington said.

Rooster loves doing his job, Shillington said. When he hits on an odor or helps apprehend a bad guy, he gets a little play time with his favorite toys.

“It operates on a Pavlovian system,” Shillington explained. “‘When I indicate on one of these odors, then something good is going to happen for me.'”

Together, Rooster and Shillington spend a minimum of 16 hours a month doing maintenance training and they must be re-certified by a third party every year.

Spending all their time together on duty, off duty and while training is paramount for building a strong connection as a team, Shillington said. The K-9 handler must be an expert in that dog because the dog’s purpose is to act as an extension of that officer. Shillington must know Rooster’s actions so well that when Rooster indicates he’s found an odor of narcotics, he’s confident that the dog is right.

The Sheriff’s Office has added a line item to the budget to cover food and veterinary costs for Rooster, but Shillington’s goal is to eventually have the department’s K-9 program funded through private donations and seizures of drug money that the department is able to seize through the court system. The funds would also help cover more specialized training and other needs of the team. Rooster already has a bullet-resistant vest on its way.

A working dog’s length of service varies widely, Shillingon said, mostly depending on the health of the animal. But for Rooster, he’s expecting he’ll work for about 10 years before he puts his paws up.

When Rooster is ready to retire from law enforcement, he’s going to get to stay at home with Shillington.

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