As one K-9 retires from the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office, another has been brought into service.
Bandit, who was the department’s first K-9, recently was recognized by the Auglaize County commissioners for seven years of service to area residents.
“He contributed many hours of loyalty and dedication to the department,” commissioners wrote in a resolution. “Bandit was a true asset to the department.”
Bandit assisted not only the Sheriff’s Office, but other agencies throughout the county, helping to recover contraband as well as to participate in building searches. He made numerous appearances at school and community events with his handler, Deputy Mike Peterson.
The 10-year-old German Shepherd from Slovakia was trained in drug detection, tracking, article search, officer protection and suspect apprehension.
Bandit joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2006 and also was a member of Auglaize County’s Special Response Team and the Auglaize/Mercer County Grand Lake Drug Task Force.
“Being that he was our first K-9 here, made him kind of special,” said Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon. “A lot of dogs have specialties, but he could do it all and do it all good. He was very good at everything.”
Solomon recounted a story of the K-9 finding a suspect hiding under a bridge, a place where most dogs would have lost the trail.
The sheriff credited Bandit with helping to increase the amount of drugs found by the department.
Bandit also served as a great mascot for the Sheriff’s Office, attending events and letting children crawl all over him.
He switched between roles as needed, Solomon said.
Age was causing Bandit some health problems, which led to his retirement, the sheriff said.
“We treated him like a deputy and we are letting him retire so to speak so he can enjoy the rest of his time on Earth,” Solomon said. “We are sorry to see him go because he became part of our family, that’s how we treated him.”
Peterson began six weeks of training with a new K-9, Vegas, in the fall. Vegas recently became an active member of the department.
“It is invaluable to have a K-9 right now,” Solomon said of the work the dogs do.
Tracking and drug detection are what Vegas will be called to most.
“Hopefully in several years, we can say he was the same type of dog as Bandit was,” Solomon said.
Vegas, which cost $10,582, including training, was selected with the assistance of Al Gill at Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds, outside of Wapakoneta.
Gill also helped train Bandit.
Eighteen dogs were tested, before the Sheriff’s Office selected Vegas, a dog that stood out because he was social, something they had been looking for.
“You want a dog that likes the ball, that will do anything for the ball,” Peterson said.
Donations, both monetary and food, cover a large portion of costs for the Sheriff’s Office K-9.
Vegas and Peterson work an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift, but can be called out at any time of day by the Sheriff’s Office or another agency in need of a K-9’s assistance. Bandit, and now Vegas, live at Peterson’s home with him and his family.
On shift, Peterson will stop and throw the ball periodically. He also works on obedience and training, which he does non-stop. Two days each month on the job are specifically set aside for training.
Peterson said Vegas is still young and learning the job and it may take a year or two before his skill set could be comparable to Bandit’s.
“There are times now when I wish I could go home and pick up Bandit,” Peterson said.
“Some days, it’s like having a little kid,” Peterson said of working with K-9s, but he added he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Being the office’s K-9 handler was something Peterson had always wanted to do.
“I always had dogs and I wanted to be able to work with them,” Peterson said.
He shared Bandit still has a good head for the work he did, but physically, he just couldn’t keep up with it. Peterson was having to lift him in and out of the SUV to do work.
“He still wants to, he just can’t,” Peterson said, describing leaving the house with Vegas for work and having to push Bandit back.
The deputy still takes Bandit on four-wheeler rides and they spend time outside at home together. His two teens also enjoy having the dogs at home with them.
“They love Bandit,” Peterson said.