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Second police dog joins sheriff’s office

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Delta County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Newton rewards K-9 Officer Sage, a female Dutch shepherd, after successfully completing a tracking training exercise outside the Delta County Sheriff’s Department recently. With the addition of Sage, the department will now have two K-9 units serving the community.

ESCANABA — Delta County Sheriff’s Department now has two K-9 units with Deputy Chad Newton and K-9 Officer Sage completing training Friday.

Newton and Sage, a female Dutch shepherd, are a certified K-9 unit after weeks of being trained by K-9 Master Trainer Marty Munger of Superior K-9 Training, based in Marquette.

According to Newton, the past few weeks Munger has been traveling to Escanaba to train the handler and K-9 duo at the Delta County Sheriff’s Department facility and other various buildings within the community.

“It’s very nice that (Munger) comes down and we can train here and use our facility,” Newton said. “There’s also other places around the area that let us use their buildings and what not for training.”

He explained the other buildings that were utilized during training included the old Washington Elementary School building in Escanaba, Delta County Airport and Escanaba Public Works.

Newton and Sage are certified in aggression control, building searches, tracking, article searches, obedience and narcotics detection.

Per the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers (NAPCH), there are minimum standards K-9 units must meet in each training category they are testing in to be certified in that area.

Newton said the experience was stressful at times, but went well overall.

Although Newton was humble about training, both Sheriff Ed Oswald and Munger had nothing but praise for Newton and Sage.

“If I had to compare him to a bunch of different handlers, he’s actually … above average, I would say,” Munger said.

Oswald added when he was getting updates during the training, he heard Sage was at advanced stages.

“(She was) doing much better than ever expected,” he said.

Becoming a K-9 handler is quite a commitment for law enforcement officers.

According to Oswald, when an officer becomes a K-9 handler there is a lot of extra work and training associated with the new job title.

“I appreciate our K-9 handlers,” he said, adding the first ever K-9 unit for the sheriff’s office was Sgt. Tom Lewis and K-9 Officer Benny (Benny has since retired).

Although becoming a K-9 handler is a bigger commitment, Newton said he wanted to take on the new position to better the community.

“If we can have one (K-9 unit) on all the time it will just better our community,” he said.

The new K-9 unit will work the days the current K-9 unit, Deputy Jamie McDonough and K-9 Officer Jet, are off so there will always be a K-9 unit on duty within Delta County.

Newton was the partner of McDonough, but will now work separately as the K-9 units of Delta County.

Oswald explained McDonough and Jet are very effective in getting drugs off the streets in Delta County and an additional K-9 unit would benefit the community because drug busts occur almost nightly when McDonough and Jet are on duty.

According to Oswald, many of the inmates within the county’s jail are serving sentences for drug-related crimes.

“Most of the inmates in the Delta County Jail are here due to drugs or drug related crimes — it might be a theft, it could be other charges, but the majority really revolves around the use of illegal drugs,” Oswald said. “So if we can arrest some of the dealers, if we can take drugs off the street, maybe people would have an easier time cleaning up, getting off drugs and being productive. It’s a never-ending battle but we’ll keep up, we’ll keep on working towards the goal — to have a drug free area.”

Newton and Sage will do more for the community than just drug busts.

Munger explained Newton, as a K-9 handler, will wear many hats in the community.

He said the tracking certification directly benefits the public because it allows the K-9 unit to be utilized when searching for individuals in various situations, like a person with dementia that wanders off and becomes lost.

K-9 Officer Sage was free to the county, as Sage was donated to Newton by retired sheriff of Dickinson County Donald Charlevoix.

The other costs associated with a K-9 unit, in regards to the training, specialized equipment and vehicle, will be paid for by the accumulated funds from drug money seized from drug busts and from the road patrol budget, according to Oswald.

He added costs associated with a K-9 officer, like vests, dog food and vet bills, are often paid for through grants and donations made by people in the community.

“We’ve had a lot of generosity from the community,” Oswald said.

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