Members of the Great Bend Noon Kiwanis got to see K-9 officer Rocco in action Wednesday, during a demonstration presented by the Barto County Sheriff’s Office.
Rocco, like his predecessor Donna, is a Belgian malinois, a shepherd dog imported from Holland. Donna still ranks as one of the best law enforcement dogs of all time, in Sheriff Greg Armstrong’s opinion, but at 11 years old she has been forced into retirement. She now stays with Detective David Paden, but only as a pet.
Conaway has been with the BCSO for five years. He went to Louisiana for training with Rocco last August, and the K-9 has been working in Great Bend since October. Rocco weighs in at more than 65 pounds, but Conaway said he may need to trim down after winter is over.
Finding a suitable replacement for Donna wasn’t easy. At the top of Armstrong’s list of requirements, he said, "I wanted something that doesn’t eat children." Donna always understood when she was working and when she could relax, and Armstrong never worried about her interacting with kids at demonstrations.
It took three unsuccessful attempts before the BCSO found the right dog.
The first place officers went to when they began their search showed them a good dog, but then tried to pull a "bait-and-switch," Armstrong said, substituting an excellent dog with another that had similar markings but wasn’t as well trained.
The next dog they tried didn’t seem to have the right attitude, and a third dog was doing well in training but developed an aversion to walking on wet floors.
Rocco has worked out fine, Conaway said. "He’s very, very protective of me."
Armstrong said all of the funds for buying K-9s for the sheriff’s office come from community donations. Don Damon of Great Bend provided more than $13,000 in the search for the right dog and its subsequent training, but the sheriff said he hopes other community members will want to step up for meeting future expenses. The next thing they need is a specially equipped vehicle for the K-9 unit.