The things they can do are amazing. The way they smell — I'd describe it like this. When you walk into a restaurant, you smell a hamburger. When the dog walks into a restaurant, he smells the bun, the sesame seeds, the meat, the lettuce, the tomato, the mayo, the mustard and the ketchup.Officer Brad Hayes, Rincon Police Department K9 handler
RINCON — They've got big ears, are quite hairy and are prone to drool occasionally. They can be quirky and boisterous from time to time, too.
Still, Officer Brad Hayes of the Rincon Police Department has the highest regard for them.
"They're the best partner you'll ever have," Hayes said while referring to police dogs, also known as K9s, which are specifically trained to assist law enforcement personnel. Their duties include narcotics detection, tracking missing people, finding crime scene evidence and apprehending fleeing suspects.
"They are unwavering," added Devlin Crosby, a former Rincon Police Department K9 handler. "They've always got your back."
The department's K9 Unit has two dogs, Razor and Snitch. They are used mostly for sniffing out drugs.
"The things they can do are amazing," Hayes said. "The way they smell — I'd describe it like this. When you walk into a restaurant, you smell a hamburger. When the dog walks into a restaurant, he smells the bun, the sesame seeds, the meat, the lettuce, the tomato, the mayo, the mustard and the ketchup.
"They smell everything differently."
The K9 Unit has proven to be a tremendous, affordable asset in the fight against crime since it formed three years after the idea originated for it in 2010. The Savannah-Chatham County Metro Police Department helped it get off the ground by contributing a K9 containment system for a police vehicle.
It also got its first two dogs, which department personnel trained, for a total cost of $350. Trained K9s usually cost $10,000-$16,000 each.
"We really wanted to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money to get the K9 Unit up and running," said Lt. Jose Ramirez, acting chief of the Rincon Police Department. "We saw some opportunities and we went after them aggressively. I'm not sure that you can put a monetary value on (the K9 Unit).
"It's a great tool."
Razor made a very good first impression.
"The first day on the job he recovered marijuana and two guns (one stolen), and the second day he got a bag of cocaine," Ramirez said.
Hayes has worked with Razor, a German Shepherd, a great deal since he joined the department several months ago..
"Razor is nineteen months old," Hayes said. "He's the newest dog we have. He was trained in South Carolina by Jeff Schettler (of Georgia K9)."
Snitch was purchased in Brunswick in 2014 and trained by Michael Giaquinto, a former Rincon Police Department K9 handler. The 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, a breed the U.S. Secret Service uses to protect the White House, replaced Senna, the department's original K9 obtained from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Senna, a large dog, was retired when she was eight years old because of problematic hips.
"(Snitch) does everything," said Crosby, whose last day with the Rincon K9 Unit was Tuesday. "He does narcotics, he does the tracking and what you call patrol or apprehension."
Hayes said Snitch, who cost $14,500, will likely be on the job for four or five more years. Police dogs often contribute to law enforcement efforts when they are only 12 months old.
K9 handlers are with their dogs almost all the time.
"I've had Snitch since December and I have four kids at home eight to eighteen," Crosby said. "He gets along with them all the time. When he gets home, he shuts off. He's a house pet — unless someone knocks on the door.
"Then he's a guard dog-house pet."
See the Sept. 12 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.