GALLIPOLIS — It is said that a dog is a man’s best friend, but for one local pair, the bond has become more than just a friendship — it’s a partnership built upon their years of service to their community.
For nearly six years, Gallia County Sheriff’s K-9 Jeck and his partner handler, Sgt. Richard Harrison, have made a name for themselves in Gallia County among both the criminal element and the average citizen, working the streets and putting bad guys behind bars.
Now, nearing the age of nine, Jeck will settle into a life of retirement — a life that might not be so easy for this hard-driven dog and his handler.
“Because of his drive to work, it’s going to be hard for him to stay home. He loves to work,” Harrison said.
Thursday, January 31 was Jeck’s final day on the job, and during a special retirement party held in his honor at the Gallia County Courthouse, Sheriff Joe Browning commended Jeck and Harrison for their years of dedicated service.
“We have been very pleased with Jeck’s performance and the things he’s been able to do for us and bring to our K-9 program. I think that’s a compliment to both Jeck and Sgt. Harrison as the K-9 handler. His service to us has been just exceptional,” Browning said.
A German Shepherd hailing from Holland, Jeck (pronounced “Jack”), had a previous life as a European show dog before traveling to the United States in 2007 at the age of three, destined for a life as a deputy.
Upon his arrival at the Pine Grove Kennel near the Meigs/Athens County line where the area’s K-9 officers and their partners are paired and trained, Jeck met up with Sgt. Harrison of the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office — a deputy who immediately signed up to become a K-9 officer when the opportunity presented itself.
“That’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do as a cop is be a K-9 handler,” Harrison said. “With a dog, you always have a partner. They are the best partners you can have.”
Paired due to their similar dispositions, Harrison, an Iraqi war veteran, and Jeck became fast friends — forming a bond during their six weeks of extensive training at Pine Grove Kennel and then hitting the streets in October 2007.
Just seven months after being instituted as a Gallia County sheriff’s deputy, Jeck recovered approximately $24,000 in drug money — funding that went back to the agency for the purchase of equipment and training, such as their own.
According to Harrison, while the upfront cost associated with the purchase and training of a K-9 unit may seem high — a total of $13,000 was used in the purchase of Jeck, his equipment and his training back in 2007 — K-9 officers in the area, including Jeck, have proven themselves over and over, making busts and seizures that more than pay for the cost of their purchase and training.
“He has paid for himself and then some,” Harrison stated.
Despite his daily unsung work as a deputy, and his largest drug seizure of 25 pounds of marijuana in July 2010, Jeck may be best known for his role in the apprehension of an Athens County man who led law enforcement on a multi-county manhunt in January 2011 after he assaulted a Vinton County deputy, kidnapped a Vinton county K-9 officer when stealing a marked Vinton County Sheriff’s Office SUV, and later wrecked the SUV and fled into Meigs County.
Jeck was brought in to track the suspect, Kelly Krebs, 33, Albany, who had fled into Columbia Township in Meigs County.
While on the track, Jeck was stabbed twice in the neck by the assailant, injuries that caused severe lacerations to his neck.
The K-9 deputy, who continued to track the suspect despite his injuries, was transported by officers to Four Seasons Veterinary Clinic in Gallia County and later by Gallia County EMS to the Ohio State University Veterinarian Hospital in Columbus for emergency surgery.
Krebs, who was later apprehended by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, was sentenced in the Meigs County Common Pleas Court in August 2011 to a total of 15 years in a state prison for charges stemming from the manhunt, including the assault of a police dog.
Jeck made a full recovery and was back to work just six weeks after his surgery. He later received an award of valor from the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office for his act of heroism on that day.
While Jeck remains as a shining example of the service and loyalty a police dog can provide, all K-9 officers must eventually retire from the jobs they love, Jeck included.
According to Harrison, police dogs usually retire at the age of nine or 10 years due to the stress of their work, and, despite his graying hair, Jeck remains in good health.
On Thursday, Jeck was purchased by Harrison from the county for $1 and will go home with his handler to live the life of a “normal” dog.
As for Sgt. Harrison, he will remain a road patrol deputy awaiting the purchase of his new partner.
The sheriff reported on Thursday that it is the intent of the sheriff’s office to purchase a new K-9 officer for Harrison in the near future.
“We do plan on, someday, replacing Jeck when we get funding available and the timing is right. We’ll try to keep that presence out there,” Browning said. “There’s nothing like having a well-trained police dog to help supplement your force, and I think what they bring with them with drug interdiction, criminal apprehension and just the presence of having that dog available when you need it is really an outstanding asset for Gallia County.”
And, while Jeck cannot every be replaced, according to Harrison, he is hopeful that his new partner will come close to filling Jeck’s very big “shoes.”
“Jeck has got a good personality. He’s good with people, but when it comes time to go to work, he does his job. He has given the sheriff’s office 110 percent every time he has gone to work,” Harrison said. “Hopefully, when I get another dog, he is just as good as Jeck — just as smart, just as hard driven and just as willing to work.”