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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Sheriff's K-9 deputies are working like dogs

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NEW PORT RICHEY - Thor is like most dogs - sort of.

Thursday morning, the 4-year-old German shepherd bit down on a blue tug toy held by Sgt. Joe Irizarry.

The pair playfully jostled around as Thor's tail rapidly wagged back and forth. Moments later, he sat, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office badge hanging from his collar.

That's when it's clear Thor isn't most dogs.

"When you start to go to your uniform closet, you can't get him away from you," his handler, Cpl. John Rux said. "They're under your feet, they're everywhere you go. They're rubbing up on you. You can't even get your pants on because they're all over you."

Thor is a member of the Pasco Sheriff's Office seven-dog K-9 unit. The group has notched several recent successes, including stopping a burglary in progress, locating two missing persons, and locating drugs hidden in a car, according to deputies.

In 2012, the K-9 Unit was deployed 714 times throughout the county. During 681 patrol searches, including tracking individuals, searching buildings and other areas, or evidence searches, 237 suspects were apprehended.

Of those suspects, 111 were for felony charges. Those canines also detected 112 pieces of evidence during the searches.

On July 9, a K-9 bloodhound assisted in the search for a Hudson man, David Wayne Evans, who went missing. The search on the first day turned up nothing, but the following day Evans was located in a wooded area.

Another K-9 team searched a car during a traffic stop and turned up 80.8 grams of marijuana and a gram of methamphetamines, in addition to other items.

"It's awesome," said Irizarry, who supervises the K-9 unit. "Seven nights a week we have at least two canine handlers out, if not three, for the whole county. It's a good group of guys and it's amazing. Every day we'll see the accolades coming in from the sheriff on down that one of the K-9 guys caught a burglary suspect, [or] finds a missing adult in danger.

"You can't put a value on when you locate someone's loved one that's lost, whether its an adult person with Alzheimer's disease that wanders off or a missing child that we find. You can't put a price on that and it makes us feel good."

Last week, Thor put aside his playful side, nabbing a man allegedly in the process of burglarizing a home.

On July 12, Thor and Rux, responded to a report of a New Port Richey burglary in progress.

The man ran and attempted to jump over a 2- to 3-foot wall, authorities say. Thor gave chase at Rux's command as they both bounded over the wall. Thor grabbed the man's ankle while in midair. The suspect, later identified as Christopher Michael Davis, 24, 8420 Unity Drive, Port Richey, collapsed to the ground and was arrested.

He was connected to a handful of Pasco County burglaries and is facing 10 burglary charges in Hernando County, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

"He might be able to outrun the deputies on scene . not wearing an extra 30 pounds (of gear) on him," Rux said. "He's not going to outrun the four-legged dog."

The team of deputies and dogs must go through 16 weeks of training. Additionally, handlers must pass an annual Florida Department of Law Enforcement test.

All that time together, at home and in pursuit of the bad guys on the road, forges a unique bond.

"It's probably the best partner you can have in the world because we spend more time with our canines than we do with our families. A lot of times we joke (about that)," Irizarry said.

"We go home and the dog's there and when we come to work, the dog is there with us. The bond is just unbelievable that you establish with the dog. They just want to follow you everywhere. When you're going out the door, they want to go out the door with you."

edaniels@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1860

Twitter: @EDanielsTBO

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