For a long time, Statesboro police K9 Rio and handler Advanced Patrol Officer Kyle Briley were the only K9 team in the house, but with the arrival of a new drug dog-in-training and a puppy being trained in tracking, the dog house is getting full.
K9s Smokey and Mono (pronounced "mow-know") will soon be part of the Statesboro Police Department family, said Madison Warren, the department's community information specialist. The SPD pack will consist of two drug dogs and a tracking dog.
The department held an online poll earlier this month to name the bloodhound puppy recently donated to the department by local trainer and former law enforcement officer Michael Duncan. Many interesting names were suggested, and after a final tally, the pup was named Smokey.
"Thank you to everyone who participated in getting K9 Smokey named," Warren said in a press release posted on the department's Facebook page.
"We had almost 2,000 folks vote on our top four name picks and hundreds of names were submitted for us to choose from," she said. "Now that he has a name, K9 Smokey can get on with being trained as our first ever tracking dog."
Duncan, a Statesboro native, donated the puppy, his top pick out of the most recent litter by his personal tracking bloodhound K9 Red, because he recognized the need for a tracking dog within the department.
"I live in this town, and I hope to one day see a headline that Red's pup helped find a missing child or someone who wandered away from a nursing home," he said.
Duncan will oversee Smokey's training for the next year.
In the meantime, another young dog will be joining the ranks soon at the SPD. K9 Mono is a yellow Labrador retriever, just 18 months old, and is almost done with training as a "single purpose, narcotics detection K9."
He is being trained by Southern Coast K9, the same place Rio (a German shepherd) came from, Warren said.
Mono and his new handler, SPD Officer Brice Scott, "will be finishing up their training together over the next few weeks before putting his super nose to work on the streets of Statesboro."
Scott is completing handler training, and the pair are expected to be in service by the end of November, she said.
The new drug dog cost more than $9,000 and was purchased using funds raised by the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation, Warren said Monday.
"Purchasing a trained K9 is a sizable investment, and we are happy to say that our Police Officers Foundation covered 100 percent of the cost to purchase a second trained narcotics detection dog for us," she said. "We are so grateful for all of the hard work, time, effort and financial resources that they have put in, and continue to put in, to provide the best for us and our officers. So much of what we do would not be possible without their support."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.