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Canines become deputy dogs

Sheriff’s department K9 unit earns badges

Photo by Jim Massara
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough presents a badge to K9 deputy Moro and handler Deputy Michael Johnson.

Photo by Jim Massara Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough presents a badge to K9 deputy Moro and handler Deputy Michael Johnson.

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Photo by Jim Massara Clayton County sheriff’s deputy Travis Fox with K9 deputy Athena. Lakota, Fox’s dog when both were injured in an auto accident while with the Clayton County Police, will receive a badge later.

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Photo by Jim Massara Clayton County sheriff’s K9 deputy Moro at Thursday’s ceremony.

Five specially trained dogs earned the title of Clayton County sheriff’s deputy — and their very own badges — in a ceremony Thursday at the sheriff’s headquarters in Jonesboro.

It’s the department’s way of taking their canine contributions seriously, according to Sheriff Kem Kimbrough. “We value these canines,” he said. “We love them.”

It also lends their contributions the department’s official seal of approval. “For a long time the K9 program was kind of hit or miss,” Kimbrough said. “They weren’t really integrated into our operation. They were a novelty to have around.”

That’s no longer the case.

The ceremony was inspired in part, Kimbrough said, by Lakota, a Clayton County police dog seriously injured in an auto accident with his handler, Officer Travis Fox, while en route to a home-invasion call last October. Fox has since recovered and joined the sheriff’s department as one of its handlers. Lakota, now retired and recuperating, will receive a badge of his own in a separate ceremony.

Each dog has a specialty. For example, Adam, one of the senior dogs, specializes in sniffing out bombs. Moro’s talent is detecting drugs. Several can track, and all do patrol.

The dogs, who live with their handlers, also perform public outreach for school children. Most of them are German Shepherds and all but one are male.

Dogs awarded badges were Rico, with handler Deputy Richard Sobczak; Athena, with handler Fox; Jaro, with handler Deputy Mike Wheeler; Moro, with handler Deputy Michael Johnson; and Adam, with handler Lt. Mike Hensley.

“These dogs see better than we do, hear better than we do, can smell better than we do, and they’re faster and stronger than we are,” Kimbrough said. “Who wouldn’t want a K9 unit?”