Deputy dogs K-9 officers are their partners’ best friends
BY GABRIELLA SOUZA • GSOUZA@NEWS-PRESS.COM • AUGUST 25, 2008
It isn’t their wagging tails, panting tongues or floppy ears that make them special.
It’s the pounds of drugs they’ve seized, bombs they’ve sniffed out and the people they’ve protected.
“They’re able to do things people can’t do,” said Sgt. Frank Glover, who trains dogs in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 unit.
The unit has been around since the early 1970s. It has 23 dogs that specialize in one of the following: patrols, bomb sniffing or narcotics.
Training for the dogs can take five to eight months, depending on what area the dog is going into, Glover said. Bomb-sniffing dogs are required to have a few more weeks of training, he said.
“You develop a huge bond with the dog because of the time you spend at work and at home,” Glover said.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office retired K-9, Buddie. (KINFAY MOROTI/news-press.com)
Working with people in jail every day might make a person a little anxious.
That’s what happened to Buddie, a 9-year-old pure-bred black Labrador who worked at the Lee County Jail in downtown Fort Myers.
Seven years of work took its toll on Buddie and he began to freak when he saw inmates.
“He worked a little too long,” said Sgt. Paul Kelly, Buddie’s owner and handler.
Now, Buddie’s anxiety has turned into a hunger for attention. It was that affection that drew Kelly to Buddie, who is the one and only dog he handled.
Buddie constantly sticks his muzzle in your hand to pet him and if that doesn’t work, he’s not above rolling onto his back, begging to be scratched.
“He’s just a spoiled old baby,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Buddie’s post-retirement activities include chasing a tennis ball and eating — his favorite food is peanut butter.
“If you went and got a bone right now, the drool would be going,” Kelly said.
• Buddie spent seven years with the sheriff’s office, working in narcotics and at the jail. He is trained to sniff out ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine.
• Buddie was known to go on narcotics searches at area schools. He once found marijuana in a North Fort Myers High School locker.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office retired K-9, Niko. (KINFAY MOROTI/news-press.com)
Nicco has come a long way from eight years ago, when the yellow lab was found tied to the door of a Cape Coral veterinary office.
For the first two weeks, Nicco wouldn’t let anyone touch him. But eventually he came around, turning into the lovable, affectionate dog that Cpl. Mark Nelson and his family have grown to love.
“Out of all the dogs Mark has worked with, he has made the biggest transformation,” said Nelson’s wife, Adalberta.
Now, Nicco, who was sheriff’s dog No. 5 for Nelson, spends his days protecting the house, although he doesn’t bark when someone comes to the door. His other duties include serving as a jungle gym for the Nelsons’ grandchildren and company for Adalberta Nelson.
Nicco still might be a little wary of you at first.
But once you’ve found his sweet spot, you’re golden.
“Scratch above his butt and you’ll be friends forever,” said Mark Nelson.
• Nicco retired in June after eight years in the unit.
• As a dog on the bomb squad, Nicco ensured the safety of President George Bush, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office retired K-9, Orson. (KINFAY MOROTI/news-press.com)
Sgt. Ed Ahlquist feels guilty every day when he leaves for work.
Until this summer, Ahlquist started the day getting into a K-9 patrol car with Orson, his chocolate labrador partner, at his side.
But Ahlquist has taken a job with the sheriff’s office’s training division, which means Orson sits by the door, waiting for his partner to get home.
“It was tough to give him up,” he said.
He was named Orson by a breeder who had tried to make him into a show dog.
“But he couldn’t sit still enough,” Ahlquist said.
Orson became as much a family dog as Ahlquist’s partner. Ahlquist’s daughter even learned to walk by hoisting herself up using Orson’s ears.
Now, Orson has become somewhat of a retired athlete, swimming in the Ahlquists’ pool and going on runs with Ahlquist.
Ahlquist said he never expected to be part of the K-9 unit, but it has worked out in his favor.
“It was the best decision I’d ever made,” he said.
“After a month and a half, I realized he was the perfect dog.”
• Orson once seized 4,000 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop.
• Orson and his partner Ed Ahlquist received a narcotics unit citation in 2005 after seizing 100,000 Ecstacy pills.
• Orson was a sheriff’s dog for almost seven years.
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