A partner for Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Josh Rodriguez hit the ground running June 21, ready to sniff out criminals and contraband.
Ausko, a spunky, nearly two-year-old German Shepard, has become the department’s third K-9 officer, joining forces with canine cohorts Fazzo, handled by Deputy Justin Galbraith, and Maggie, handled by Deputy Jeremy Simon. Newly certified to serve after six weeks of training at Shawnee Run Kennels in Lima, Ohio, Ausko is on overnight patrol with Rodriguez.
“We bonded within the first couple of hours that we were together,” the deputy said.
It’s a pairing, however, that almost wasn’t. The dog Rodriguez was initially supposed to train with had difficulty closing in when alerted to narcotics. It was a quirk the sheriff’s office chose not to take on. A second dog – a long-haired German Shepard named Raven – didn’t work out when she took training at too slow a pace.
“There are a lot of times where you start with a dog and it just doesn’t work out for one reason or another,” Rodriguez said.
Ausko proved a charm. A native of Germany, he entered North America via Canada, then was transported to Shawnee Run Kennels to be trained alongside Rodriguez by dog handler Roger Bice. K-9 dogs can cost between $8,000-$12,000; Ausko’s purchase was funded with forfeited drug money.
So far, Ausko’s duties have involved nightly patrol with Rodriguez and a couple of building searches. Rodriguez gives Ausko some basic commands in English, but on duty the dog obeys instruction in German. That’s done so perpetrators can’t also control Ausko with trained orders.
When they’re on patrol, Rodriguez keeps Ausko inside the vehicle when he isn’t needed. “I shelter him, I guess,” he said.
That protection is part of the trust he feels between himself and the dog. Rodriguez said when they enter their vehicle at the beginning of each shift he tells Ausko, “You get me home, I’ll get you home.”
And while the canine officer is all business on the job, he lets his fur down at home with his partner. “He’s still got a lot of puppy in him. He likes to get out there and play,” Rodriguez said.
Sheriff Roy Miller said Ausko was brought aboard so that the department can have a K-9 dog available on each shift. He said Ausko was also acquired in an effort to cycle in new dogs as other K-9 dogs on staff start to reach retirement age.
A Fulton County sheriff’s deputy for six years, Rodriguez flirted with the idea of joining the K-9 ranks. When a position became available he jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s kind of an elite group, and I wondered what it would be like to have that bond with a partner,” he said.
The training was much harder than he anticipated, “and now it’s a continued training from here on out,” he added.
Rodriguez will have to recertify training with Ausko each year, but he finds the benefits far outweigh the difficulty.
“I’ve always loved my job, and now it’s fun,” he said. “I’ve got a dog with me. Who doesn’t love a dog?”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.