Sheriff’s office welcomes K-9 Zeke to the force

Monday, September 12, 2022
Plymouth County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Petersen is joined by K-9 partner Zeke at the county law enforcement center. Zeke recently passed his first certification through the United States Police Canine Association and has started working patrols with Officer Petersen throughout the county.
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil)

PLYMOUTH CO. — The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office has a new member on their team. Zeke, a Belgian Malinois, recently passed his first round of certification through the United States Police Canine Association and will work with handler Deputy Kyle Petersen.

Petersen has been working with Zeke since getting him as a puppy at eight weeks old last May.

“He came from Lafayette, Georgia,” Petersen said. “I started right away with just the puppy stuff, making that relationship with him like normal people do, making sure he felt comfortable with me and I felt comfortable with him.”

Petersen said it has been a process to not only teach Zeke the basic commands that pet owners work with their own pets with, but also additional tasks to help move towards the certification process.

“It’s a daily training with the dog individually whether it be just playing fetch or doing obedience commands,” Petersen said. “He’s also working on his narcotics detection.”

Petersen said he has been helped through the process of training Zeke by Sgt. Jake Wingert, his colleague in the sheriff’s office who handled K-9 Gulliver, as well as Le Mars Police Officer Bob Rohmiller, who works with K-9 Ace.

“That takes a team effort to be honest,” Petersen said. “We train once a week at least with myself, Le Mars PD, Sheldon PD, Rock Valley PD and even Sioux County. So there’s a group of people that will train together to kind of take the collaboration between everybody.”

Zeke recently passed his Patrol Dog I certification which tests on obedience, agility, searching and criminal apprehension and recall. Petersen said Zeke scored well in his certification.

“You have to get a passing score of at least 490 points out of 700,” Petersen said. “They judge you on all kinds of different aspects. Whether the dog sits in the correct fashion. Whether the dog listens to your command the first time, things like that. So out of 700 points, Zeke scored 658, so he did very well.”

After passing the first certification, Petersen said the next step is to get Zeke certified in narcotics detection in the coming months.

Sheriff Jeff TeBrink explained why the certifications are necessary.

“The reason we do certifications is mainly for the liability reasons,” TeBrink said. “Then we can show, if we do a criminal apprehension or when he gets certified in narcotics, that we can show the courts that the dog has passed the certifications from the United States Police Canine Association.”

K-9 partners serve in many ways in law enforcement. Some of those include narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, tracking and evidence searches.

Wingert, who worked alongside K-9 Gulliver from 2013 to 2021, explained some of the main areas a K-9 can help an officer.

“Right now, narcotics detection is probably the most used tool,” Wingert said. “Then just presence. Just the presence of a K-9 can diffuse a dangerous situation.”

TeBrink said he is glad the department once again has a K-9 and would like to possibly add another.

“We recently just retired Sgt. Wingert’s dog, Gully, due to health reasons and because of his age,” TeBrink said. “Right now, Zeke is our only one for the sheriff’s office. Eventually, my goal is to put another K-9 officer on.”

Each year, a K-9 must be tested and re-certified. The working span of a K-9 can range from about 5-10 years.

Previous K-9 partners at the sheriff’s office have included Neiko, who worked with Deputy Matt Struve from 2011 to 2016; Sable, who worked with Lt. Scott Dorhout from 2002 to 2010; and Jugger, who worked with TeBrink from 2005 to 2009.

While Zeke had been riding along in Petersen’s patrol vehicle, he wasn’t able to do much until getting his certification. When asked if he was ready to take Zeke out and put him to work, Petersen responded, “Absolutely.”

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