Deputy Fazzo combines work, play on duty

By David J. Coehrs -

Deputy Justin Galbraith, shown with K-9 Deputy Fazzo, said the two have formed a close bond since they trained together in September.

It’s true Fazzo loves to mix work and play, but on the job he’s all business.

The newest canine deputy of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has been on patrol since Nov. 2, when he was certified by the State of Ohio, and in that time has already seized an impressive amount of illicit drugs and cash. His partner, Deputy Justin Galbraith, said Fazzo’s instincts are keen, and his tracking and working abilities are phenomenal.

“Within a few weeks we bonded real well, and he doesn’t leave my side. Now, I can’t go anywhere without him following me,” Galbraith said.

The sleek, black three-year-old purebred German Shepherd is a bundle of energy imported from the Czech Republic. It was there he learned to be a working dog before undergoing six weeks of training with Galbraith at Shawnee Run Kennels in Lima, Ohio.

Fazzo was purchased there for $9,000. The sheriff’s office spent an additional $3,000 to train him, and $5,000 to custom-fit a patrol vehicle for his use. Funding comes from both the sheriff’s office and private donations making up its K-9 fund.

Galbraith said Fazzo was selected from several dogs for his energy and what appeared to be an advanced level of performance. “He stood out right away – “his mentality, the way he acted, and his working ability,” he said.

Fazzo is considered a patrol dog, meaning he has the narcotics, tracking, and article search abilities of a special purpose dog but with the additional abilities of obedience, buildings and area searches, criminal apprehension, and handler protection. At a simple command, he will heel, bark, search, track, and bite.

Those commands are spoken by Galbraith in German, a protective measure that guarantees Fazzo will obey only his partner’s orders. When Fazzo does sniff out contraband on duty he is trained to sit and stare to alert his handler. To ensure he maintains his sharp edge, the canine trains with Galbraith eight hours each week.

Since assuming his duties, the canine deputy has found two pounds of a synthetic marijuana with the street name of K2/Spice, a large quantity of authenic marijuana, and just over $10,000 in drug-related cash. His reward for his on-duty discoveries has been a toy made of stuffed fire hose. But Fazzo also favors a durable rubber toy called a Kong.

In fact, the dog’s entire performance in the field is predicated on being rewarded, Galbraith said. Like all K-9 animals, Fazzo responds to commands solely to receive a toy.

“To him it’s all play,” he said. “Everything law-enforcement related, where there’s tracking, searching for narcotics – it’s all play time for him. He thinks he’s playing to get a toy. They’ve got the ability to want to do anything that it will take to get that toy. That’s what we look for. And once they have that drive it’s easier to train them, easier to get them to do what you need.”

Fazzo’s particular brand of play, however, is threatening to lawbreakers.

“The dogs are probably more intimidating than any piece of equipment that law enforcement has. When we’re out on a call, as soon as (people) see and realize there’s a canine there it’s a totally different demeanor,” Galbraith said.

He’s also used to conduct locker searches about three times annually at schools in Fulton, Henry, Williams, and Defiance counties.

But Fazzo has a softer side that’s displayed during public relations visits to schools, churches, local clubs, and Scout groups. He shares those and work duties with the sheriff’s office’s other K-9 officer, Maggie, whose handler is Deputy Jeremy Simon.

Sheriff Roy Miller said Fazzo is very attentive to his surroundings. “This dog has its own personality. It wants to please its handler. You want it paying attention to what’s going on with you.”

Deputy Justin Galbraith, shown with K-9 Deputy Fazzo, said the two have formed a close bond since they trained together in September. Justin Galbraith, shown with K-9 Deputy Fazzo, said the two have formed a close bond since they trained together in September.

By David J. Coehrs

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 410-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 410-335-2010.