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Sheriff's Office adds canine to its staff

Dog will help track suspects, assist deputy on solo shifts


COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PHOTO - Columbia County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Dews and Lars, a Belgian Malinois, are soon to be a crime fighting duo. Lars will begin work alongside his trainer and partner in 2016.

Columbia County’s newest crime fighter is a 17-month-old from Czechoslovakia.

Last week, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office announced the addition of Lars, a Belgian Malinois who will accompany Deputy Ryan Dews on patrol duty.

Lars is the first canine addition to the Sheriff’s Office since 2009, according to Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.

The canine will undergo a 10-week training program in January before he begins his full-time duty in law enforcement. For now, he’s bonding with Dews and getting acquainted with his new partner.

Dickerson said the office acquired Lars from a law enforcement canine facility in California for just under $10,000.

The presence of a specialized canine on duty will bolster the county’s ability to hunt down criminals, while making single-person shifts safer, Dickerson said.

“Because of some attrition and other things on the enforcement side, we had a little bit of money and one of the things we wanted to do was support the deputies we have left with extra support when they’re out there on calls by themselves,” Dickerson noted. “My desire, long-term, is to have any deputy who wants a canine, to have a ready-made partner.”

Canines have played important roles in law enforcement throughout the county. Last month, a dog from Hillsboro was credited with helping to hunt down a fugitive wanted by the Sheriff’s Office.

Dogs have become valuable additions to law enforcement. They’re often quicker than humans, highly trainable and loyal, and have a keen sense of smell that aids in tracking suspects. They can also help defend their partners from attackers.

“We are always calling for a dog, always,” Dickerson said of the need for canine assistance from other agencies. “We are now the only entity that has a tracking dog in the county.”

St. Helens Police K9 Officer Jon Eggers helped the Sheriff’s Office through the selection process.

Eggers traveled to California, along with Sheriff’s Lt. Dustin Hald, to find the perfect fit for the job.

“Lars was tested along with 13 other dogs with similar skills,” Hald stated in a news release. “Lars tested the best out of 14 dogs tested in a two day process.”

Lars will live with Dews and, once he begins work, he’ll remain at his partner’s side on all shifts. He’ll be available to other local law enforcement agencies on an on-call basis, too.

“He’s still got a lot of puppy in him but he’s very eager to please,” Dickerson said. “He’s already bonding with Deputy Dews. We’re so excited about what he’s gong to bring to the organization and really the entire county.”

Belgian Malinois are similar to German shepherds, but typically less stocky. They are favored by the military and law enforcement agencies.

Dickerson pointed out that it was a Malinois who helped the U.S. Navy SEAL team take out Osama bin Laden. On Wednesday, French police said a Belgian Malinois was killed while assisting police during a raid on suspected terrorists in France that morning.

Much like his human counterparts, Lars will be outfitted with a ballistic vest, a GPS system and, eventually, a body camera. To help with the costs of Lars’ ongoing care, special food, safety equipment and shelter, the Sheriff’s Office set up a crowd-funding page through GoFundMe, seeking $15,000. The proceeds will go

to the nonprofit Sheriff’s Support Organization to benefit the organization’s new K9 program.

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