The new policeman in town is a bit slobbery and likes his chew toy, but with one spoken command from Sgt. Seth Shephard, the playful puppy behavior of Duke gives way to the strong and determined countenance of a K-9 ready to work.
Bradford City Police Chief Mike Ward, Shephard and Duke sat down with The Era to talk about the job and Duke’s introduction to the public at this evening’s National Night Out.
The event is from 5 to 8 pm on Chambers Street in Bradford.
The officers cautioned that Duke is new to the city, and he will be on the job today. Therefore, it will be a “look but don’t touch” event.
“We just got out of training on Friday,” Shephard said. “We just finished our six-week training.”
Ward explained Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville is where Duke came from, and where Shephard and Duke trained. July 15 was Duke’s second birthday, and the officers said he’s mature and has a good temperament.
“Right now, everywhere he goes he thinks he’s going to work,” Shephard said. “Everything’s new for him. To this point, every time he goes in a building it’s been training.”
Ward said he’s been impressed with how well Shephard and Duke have bonded.
“Sgt. Shephard was more than qualified,” Ward said. “Not only does he have prior police experience, but he was prior Army for three years so he comes with discipline. I felt someone needed to be structured to continue with a program like this and stay up with the training.
That’s the big thing, the amount of training that’s going to go into this is hard to even imagine.”
Shephard said he’s really enjoying it so far.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” he said. “And now I get to do this every day with this beautiful boy,” he said, pausing for a moment to stop Duke from chewing on his leash.
Shephard said, “It’s constant, ongoing.” Gesturing to Duke, who was again chewing his leash and wiggling around, the sergeant said, “He’s getting bored. It takes constant attention. When they say he’s basically a small child in dog form, he is.
“He has a good drive, it’s through the roof. Which is what he was selected for,” Shephard said.
Shallow Creek Kennels handpicks dogs from Europe. Duke came from Slovakia. He’s a purebred German Shepherd.
Ward spoke of the extra work the canine handler has to put in.
“The dedication it takes is another thing. Most officers work for 8 to 12 hours and call it a day,” the chief said. “Sergeant Shephard is going to experience call out.”
“It’s going to be a fun process. It has been so far. I’m glad we had the training process,” Shephard said. While Duke lives with Shephard, he isn’t in the house with him.
“We basically built the Cadillac of dog houses outside for him,” Shephard said. Duke has a kennel—with heat and air conditioning. The kennel was constructed using donations, and with donated labor from many people, the chief explained.
“This was a community effort,” Ward said. “This is the newest tool for the department. And I think excitement is high in the department.”
Duke has been good for morale, too, the chief said.
Ward mentioned, too, that the department is excited that Officer Dakota Eaton was selected as the handler for the District Attorney’s Office K-9 Unit’s dog Rigby, and said the handlers and their K-9s will be able to train together.
Overall, the chief feels the use of the dogs will be a benefit to the department and the community.
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” Ward said. “We really feel this is going to make a difference in drug detection, leading to more prosecutions, stronger prosecutions. Not only that but the tracking abilities, for a suspect who is trying to evade” to a suspect who throws something out the window during a chase.
Shephard holds a national certification, with annual renewal. Duke is trained for patrol and drug detection.
Ward said the department has purchased a sport-utility vehicle that is outfitted for a K-9 team. It isn’t in yet.
“We plan on working with the District Attorney’s office on school searches,” Ward said, and added that they plan to assist other departments as much as possible, too. “It’s going to be one heck of an addition to the department.”
Major James McDonald certainly agrees.
“It’s an exciting time for the City of Bradford. We finally have our boy Duke with us and are ready to have him working alongside Sgt. Shephard,” the major said. “We are very fortunate to have an asset like Duke in our department.
“Duke and Seth will be providing a unique, effective and valuable approach to law enforcement that our city hasn’t seen in 40 years and it’s all because of the generosity of the Blaisdell Foundation and several other area businesses and individuals,” McDonald continued.
I have added his thanks for the one man behind the whole idea.
“A massive thank you goes out to Chief Mike Ward for planting the seeds of possibility for all of this to have transpired,” McDonald said. “From the inception of this idea to the arrival of Duke to our zip code, Mike carried this dream the entire time and gathered the support to make it happen.”
And the community’s help and support has been incredible.
The mayor said, “Duke is a living, breathing example of the good that our community can do when we come together behind a common cause.”