Newest K-9 addition to sheriff’s department on duty and making an impact

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Delta County Sheriff’s Deputy James McDonough stands with the K-9 Jet, the department’s newest addition, outside of the Delta County Sheriff’s Department in Escanaba Tuesday. Since joining the department, McDonough said Jet has been utilized in vehicle searches for narcotics and tracking.

ESCANABA — The Delta County Sheriff’s Department reinstated its K-9 program with the addition of K-9 “Jet” last fall. According to department officials, the dog has been a great extension of the sheriff’s task force.

According to Deputy James McDonough, K-9 Jet’s handler, having a police dog has always been a goal of his ever since he decided he was going to be a police officer when he was a kid.

“I’ve always wanted to be a K-9 handler,” said McDonough.

Starting off working in the Delta County Correctional Facility, McDonough has been a road patrol officer for the past three years. Since joining the department, he has been actively pursuing the idea of getting a police canine.

The sheriff’s department has had a dog before, noted McDonough, with the former K-9 Benny. Benny retired from the department in 2014.

McDonough explained K-9 Jet is a year and a half old Dutch Shepherd who came to the U.S. from the Netherlands in October, landing in Detroit before making his way to Marquette for further training.

The cost of the dog was close to $8,000, noted McDonough, adding K-9 Jet was partially paid for with the use of forfeiture funds — funds deputies seized in cases involving narcotics.

Other costs for the dog include veterinary care and food, which both have been donated to the sheriff’s department by community members, said McDonough.

Prior to coming to Delta County, McDonough said Jet had to train for two months with retired Lt. Marty Munger of the Marquette Police Department. Munger was a K-9 handler for nearly 15 years.

Initial training was bonding with Jet, noted McDonough, so both handler and canine are on the same page. Jet trained for two months with Munger before coming to the Delta County Sheriff’s Department in November.

Other training with Jet included narcotics detection, tracking, building searches and more, explained McDonough, adding he and K-9 Jet train weekly.

McDonough noted that he has received help locally with handling skills from the Escanaba Public Safety Department’s K-9 handler, Public Safety Officer Gary Sovey. Sovey handles K-9 Dag at the department.

All police dogs and their handlers are members of the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers (NAPCH), which is essentially the governing body of police canines, said McDonough.

Through community donations, McDonough said the people of Delta County have helped make his dream a reality. Several local banks held fundraising events for the reinstated program to help with training costs and other needs for both McDonough and K-9 Jet.

Donations will also help the department to possibly purchase a new squad car equipped with a cage and other needs for K-9 Jet, noted McDonough. Because the department had a police dog prior to Jet, it already had a vehicle ready, but McDonough said that vehicle won’t last forever and they want K-9 Jet to be with the department as long as possible.

Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald agreed, noting K-9 Jet has been an important asset to the department and makes catching criminals that much easier.

“When he’s ready to work, he will work,” said Oswald. “He’s also perfect to bring into schools.”

McDonough said he hopes to utilize Jet in the community with school presentations and demonstrations, adding people always enjoy seeing the police dog.

“He’s very social,” said McDonough, adding he loves pets and lots of attention, which makes him perfect for community involvement.

Although Jet can be friendly, when put to work McDonough said he is ready to attack and take down criminals if need be. To let Jet know that he is on the job, McDonough said by putting on his tracking vest and detection collar his demeanor changes to work dog. Most of Jet’s commands are in Dutch, explained McDonough.

Jet has been utilized since joining the sheriff’s task force, noted McDonough, helping to conduct vehicle searches for suspected narcotics and tracking a runaway criminal in the woods.

Although taking on the police dog is a hefty task, McDonough said he’s thankful he gets to do it.

“It’s a great increase in responsibility,” said McDonough. “We’re great appreciative of all the donations we received and we hope to build a great community relationship with the use of Jet.”

Jet resides with McDonough at his home.