Ogle County Sheriff’s Deputies Jon Shippert and Duke, the only K-9 team in the sheriff’s office, gave a demonstration of Deputy Duke’s unique skills to the Oregon Woman’s Club on April 12.
They also accepted a check for $300 to defray part of the cost of the special, tailor-made vest that Duke wears part of the time on the job.
Duke is a two-year-old German shepherd and Belgian malinoix mix.
His skills include tracking,search, apprehension of suspects, and finding illegal drugs.
One of the demonstrations at the presentation was Duke sniffing out packets of cannabis hidden in the room before he came in.
After a thorough check of the room, including a few handbags, he immediately honed in on a cabinet where the drugs were concealed, signaling to his partner and crouching down in front of the offending piece of furniture.
“He behaves very differently when he senses drugs,” Shippert said.
Duke’s skills go beyond searching for illegal drugs. He has tracked people for up to a mile and a half and has done numerous vehicle searches.
Shippert and Duke’s partnership began a year ago when they were matched up at a six-week training course in Barrington, Michigan.
At the time, Duke was untrained.
“Everything he knows, I taught him,” Shippert said.
This training experience created a strong bond between Shippert and Duke.
“Duke and I had a great bond from the start,” Shippert said. ”He’s very protective of me.”
Duke’s skills are kept up-to-date by weekly training sessions in Freeport, and the bonding between the deputies is reinforced because Duke goes home with Shippert every night.
“When he’s off-duty, he’s just a normal dog,” Shippert said.
He runs, plays, enjoys chewing on his favorite toys, and just spending time with Shippert.
“But Duke is not a pet,” Shippert said. “He’s more like my partner who lives with me.”
Duke’s special bullet-proof vest is similar to the ones worn by all the deputies, except that it has to be made to measure so that it fits his canine body snugly, but comfortably, hence, the $1,000 price tag.