The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 3, 2013

Deputy's dog begins intense training

EBENSBURG — Alli, the drug sniffing dog that has been at the side of Cambria County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Szymusiak for nine years has been sent to the old-age home for police dogs and replaced with Hero, a Dutch shepherd, which will soon be put into use providing any number of services.

The 16-month-old Hero arrived in the county this week, taking up residence at Szymusiak’s Nanty Glo home and is set to begin six weeks of intense training before being put into what the deputy hopes will be full-time service routing out bad guys and protecting law-abiding county residents.

Hero, who has already undergone significant pretraining in sniffing out narcotics, cames at a cost of about $10,000. The expense was paid entirely through a grant by a non-profit organization based in Houston, said Szymusiak, who made application for the funding.

“Only six grants were awarded, one went to Kentucky, four to Texas and one to Pennsylvania, and that one was to us,” the deputy said of the organization known as K9s-4COPs.

As with Alli, Hero will be a vital addition, said Cambria County Sheriff Bob Kolar.

“This is very important to us, we use it for narcotics detection, school safety programs and in any number of other areas in the county,” Kolar said. “The old dog was used by numerous police departments, and we made it available to any department that called, even the state police.”

Alli, in his retirement, continues to live with Szymusiak as Hero also becomes a part of the family, Kolar said.

“The dog becomes a member of the family,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe it.”

But having a K-9 deputy also requires a lot of time and dedication from its handler, according to the sheriff.

Late last month Szymusiak went to Vohne Liche Kennels of Denver, Ill., a training facility for police and service dogs, where he spent time visiting with available pretrained dogs. He eventually chose Hero out of a pack of 10 dogs.

“You just look for a good all-around solid dog,” Szymusiak said. “The nice part is that he’s so young.”

The sheriff’s budget will provide funding for food and vet bills for Hero, but equipment and anything needed to train the dog, such as leashes and muzzles is up to Szymusiak to provide.

Kolar and Szymusiak are asking that anyone, including schools and civic organizations interested in seeing Hero in action call the sheriff’s office at 472-1690.

The same number can be used for anyone wishing to make a donation to help off set the cost of the dog.

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