The Custer County Sheriff’s office has a new K-9 Unit thanks to generous donations from several businesses and organizations in the county.
“Prior to obtaining a K-9 Unit, we noticed an increase of drug related activity traveling through Custer County on the highways and county roads. The increase in activity was so much that we felt the need for a K-9 was more of a necessity than a luxury,” said Deputy Barrett Gibbons.
The county’s first K-9 Unit started in 2015, when one of the deputies put the work into getting donations and started the ball rolling towards the implementation of the unit. Once it was up and going, the sherriff’s office had its first K-9, Aton. In late 2016, Deputy Gibbons stumbled into a K-9, Vinnie, who was fully trained and given to the department from a neighboring county. Aton and his handler are no longer with the department and Vinnie has since retired.
Enter Vader – a 2 1/2-year-old black German Shepherd – who originally came from Europe to Kasseburg Kennels in Alabama and then to the Iowa State Patrol.
“The Iowa State Patrol has a close working relationship with the Nebraska State Patrol and the NSP knew I was looking for a new K-9. Vader was purchased as a dual purpose, but did not meet the traits needed as a dual purpose. We then purchased him as a single/narcotic detection K-9,” said Deputy Gibbons.
Vader’s cost as a new, but trained narcotics detection dog was $8,000.00.
“My goal was to speak with the surrounding businesses within the county and ask for donations,” said Gibbons. “It’s nice to see the businesses pitching in whatever they can because it shows that our community has our back in keeping our county safe.”
When the deputy reached out to Sandhills Open Road Challenge board member Becky Dailey, he asked if the organization would be willing to make a donation of any amount they felt necessary. Becky asked how much the K-9 would cost and Gibbons told her $8,000.00. Becky told him that she would speak with the board and get back to him. When she contacted Gibbons a few days later, she informed him that the SORC wanted to make the full purchase of Vader.
“When she told me, I was speechless at first, and if I remember right, there was a long pause on my end as I tried to process what she had just told me. After I processed it, I was excited,” said Gibbons.
With donations already received from Gateway/Sandhills Motors, Bruning Bank, Thomas Livestock Company, Govier Brothers, Mills Hardware, Gibbons Trucking, Hunter’s Towing, John and Deb Blakeman, and the Custer County Foundation, SORC’s total purchase of the K-9 allowed all the other money to go towards further training, equipment, and vet bills. Gibbons said it is great to be able to make the purchase and have all the other expenses covered completely by donations.
SORC board members had the chance to meet the K-9 Unit at their last meeting. Gibbons introduced Vader to the other members of the board and a few spectators.
The K-9 Unit did a little demonstration on how Vader searches and indicates to the presence of narcotic orders. Gibbons also explained to them how Vader is trained to do those behaviors and the upkeep it takes to maintain his proficiency.
“Vader still has a lot of pup in him, but is a great overall dog,” said Gibbons. “He was basically a plug and play from my old K-9. We did not have to participate in the 6-week basic training course since he was already trained, which saved us on another cost. We passed our first state certification with no issues and we continue to train to keep both of us ready to go.”
When Vader isn’t working, he is with Gibbons at his house, and on his off days, he is just a normal dog.
“He loves kids and chasing his Kong ball,” said Gibbons, who added that Vader will serve Custer County for about eight years.