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New police K-9 ‘Rikkert’ on his way from The Netherlands
Rikkert, pictured here at 5 months old, is a Belgian Malinois dog en route to the United States from The Netherlands. Upon completing his training in San Antonio, the now-14-month-old will work for the Floresville Police Department with Sgt. Devin Keen as a dual-purpose K-9.
Wilson County NewsAugust 22, 2012 3,204 views 3 comments
FLORESVILLE -- It probably is safe to assume that Floresville’s newest police officer can run faster or jump higher than any of his counterparts. But unlike his brothers in blue, “Rikkert” won’t wear a uniform.
Rikkert is a Belgian Malinois dog that was due to arrive by Aug. 21 in Houston. He is coming from the city of Almelo in The Netherlands. Floresville Police Department Sgt. Devin Keen will become Rikkert’s handler.
Keen -- a 12-year department veteran -- initially planned to work without a K-9 partner for a few months so that he could grieve the loss of the department’s former K-9, Zorro, who lost his battle with cancer July 3. But recent interactions with suspects, and a conversation with friend and former K-9 officer Sgt. Randy Broom of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, convinced Keen to begin the search for a new partner.
“I’m ready to hit the streets hard,” Keen said. “We’ve got to keep [the K-9 unit] going. There’s no telling what will happen.”
Keen said the ongoing influx of temporary workers in South Texas because of the Eagle Ford shale oil and natural gas boom also has brought more drugs into Floresville. Some of the workers who have come in find it difficult to balance a full workday and a hard-partying nightlife, which can lead to methamphetamine abuse, he said.
Like Zorro, Rikkert is being trained to serve as a dual-purpose police K-9. In addition to being able to alert his handler to the presence of illegal drugs or contraband, a dual-purpose dog also can protect an officer and assist in the apprehension of a suspect.
Robert Gonzalez of Choice Dogs International in San Antonio trained both Zorro and his predecessor, Don. He will begin a six- to eight-week training regimen with Rikkert when the dog arrives stateside. He said Rikkert already has begun preliminary training known as KNZP, which is a dog sport used in police certification in The Netherlands. But under Gonzalez’s tutelage, Rikkert will be trained in bite work, building searches, apprehension, evidence searches, and narcotics detection.
Unlike previous K-9 training methods that involved a dog barking or scratching at an area where drugs or contraband are hidden, Gonzalez said Rikkert will be trained to be a “passive sitting dog,” learning to seat himself in the areas where items are being concealed.
“After that, we will do maintenance training for at least a year in Floresville,” Gonzalez said. “This will keep the dog working at an optimal level at all times.”
Gonzalez is a retired K-9 handler from New Mexico. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Gonzalez acknowledged that a K-9 unit is vital to the region if Floresville does not want to lose its footing in Texas’ war against illegal drugs.
“The area is a corridor known for money going south [to Mexico] and drugs coming north,” he said.
Gonzalez, because he and Keen have known each other for several years, said he was able to find a dog that would be a good fit for the sergeant.
“I know what he likes in a dog,” Gonzalez said. “It takes a handler that knows mentally how to handle a dog, someone who thinks with and ahead of the dog.”
In addition to being an officer’s partner, a police K-9 also can serve as protection in tense situations. Gonzalez, who worked 10 years on a SWAT team, recalled a time when his service dog prevented him from being shot.
“The dog saved my life,” Gonzalez said. “Just when the suspect raised his gun and fired the shot, the dog engaged him.”
Because they are such invaluable tools to police departments worldwide, Belgian Malinois K-9s are a costly investment. Gonzalez said departments can expect to pay $10,500 to $15,000 per dog.
Fortunately though, Floresville’s taxpayers will not feel the bite. Keen’s first K-9, Don, died of a sudden illness at age 3. Donations paid for Zorro, which the Floresville Police Department insured. The policy not only paid for Zorro’s cancer treatment, but also paid the department $14,500 upon his death in July. That payment allowed the department to purchase Rikkert.
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August 26, 2012 10:28pm
August 26, 2012 4:08pm
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August 23, 2012 10:27am
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