ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – As a recent afternoon shift began, Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Wolf and K-9 Tyront, a Belgian Malinois police service dog, were ready for duty.
The officer and his dog are an inseparable unit, a team that works and lives together. One K-9 team is on duty each shift for Kane County. The Belgian Malinois is a shepherd breed used for police work. Tyront came from Hungary and is certified in narcotics detection, tracking, building searches, evidence recovery, suspect apprehension and handler protection.
Tyront and Wolf, 32, are assigned to the Kane County Special Weapons and Tactics Team. The K-9 deputies will give their dogs training work to do each shift.
“Every day I pick something – whatever he needs to be polished up on or whatever I’m in the mood for,” Wolf said. “We do something every day, whether it be a building search or a track, a narcotics search or handler protection work. We train anywhere we can. We will go to any place we can get into that will let us do some training. Or anything we think we will see in the future with the dog, we will try to accomplish that with training. That way, when we deploy the dog, we won’t have any issues.”
The K-9 dogs have been trained in elevators, escalators, schools, hospitals, woods, water, the Fox River, vehicles, neighborhoods, parking lots, fields – you name it – he said. During one recent training, Wolf took a scent stick and had a reporter rub it on her arm to pick up a scent. Then it was thrown into a small field near the sheriff’s office for Tyront to retrieve – and the K-9 did not fail.
He leaped out of the patrol car, ready for action, 70 pounds of well-muscled go-to dog, golden fur on his body with ink-black fur on his big face and the edges of his large ears. Tyront ran around a bit, then began sniffing. Less than a minute later, he picked up the scent stick, brought it to Wolf and demanded his reward: a tennis ball to bite and a pat and hug from his handler.
The training has to be daily and regimented, Wolf said, because the handler’s life depends upon the dog’s preparedness.
“It’s something that a lot of people don’t understand,” Wolf said. “Our lives rely on these dogs. So we do put a lot of pressure on the dogs in our program, but it’s for a specific purpose. We’re not in the business where we can have dogs that are half-trained or not very well-trained or minimally trained.”
A call-out for an event can take hours, so the K-9 has to have physical strength and stamina.
“If we’re looking for an offender in a major crime or a large building, it can take hours, so the dogs are very athletic,” Wolf said. “They’re like little professional athletes.”
Over the years, Kane County’s K-9 officers have apprehended an offender in hostage situation, found a lost 2-year-old, caught two suspects fleeing a home invasion, recovered 900 pounds of marijuana, and found narcotics that led to hundreds of arrests, according to the sheriff’s website.
Being a K-9 handler also means a deputy is never quite away from his dog.
“The dog goes home with us; they’re part of the family,” Wolf said. “These dogs are high-drive, they need some kind of outlet for their energy. Even on our off days, we still have to do something with the dog. They’re not dogs we can just lock in a room and leave them there.”
Being a K-9 handler also means going above and beyond, Wolf said. On Memorial Day, for example, one of the K-9s and a handler were in the St. Charles parade.
“Everybody volunteers their time, they volunteer some of the own money and volunteer their family time,” Wolf said. “It’s more of a lifestyle because our families are involved in this as well.”
K-9 dogs begin training as puppies in Europe and usually have experience in tracking and obedience, Wolf said.
Each K-9 costs $15,000 for the dogs and the training, and $1,000 for each bulletproof vest, said Chief Deputy Dave Wagner, all paid for through donations and sponsorships. Though the county’s goal is to have two dogs on per shift, the sheriff’s office needs additional donations to do that.
“It’s based on donations and support from the public,” Wagner said of the K-9 unit. “We would love to fund it, but with our budget, it’s not a reality right now.”
• Donations for dogs, training and vests are tax deductible and may be made by calling Deputy Nicholas Wolf at 630-232-6840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• An upcoming golf outing fundraiser will benefit the Kane County Sheriff's K-9 Unit to pay for additional dogs, training and equipment. Cause Fore Paws Golf Outing and Dinner Banquet will be held 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23 at Bliss Creek Golf Course, 1 Golfview Lane, Sugar Grove. The cost is $85 per golfer or $340 for a foursome. For non-golfers, the cost just for dinner is $35. More information is available at www.causeforepaws.webs.com/