Cass Co. sheriff's deputy K-9s keeping community safe and calm

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. (WNDU) --- A trio of Cass County Sheriff's Office police dogs help the department cover many bases between fighting crime and community policing.

Deputy K-9 Nellie and her handler, Deputy Tiffany Graves, work together to find missing people, even hours after they have disappeared, using the person's individual scent.

"That's just a fancy way of saying, 'Everybody smells different, and [Nellie] can find smell in the middle of a bunch of others,'" Graves said.

The bloodhound's wrinkles, nose and saliva help her intake, hold and process the scent of the person she needs to find. By giving clues, Nellie can alert Graves if someone was picked up by a vehicle and then indicate which direction that person went. She will follow "live scent" to the location where a person has died.

"When it's not the conclusion we want, yeah, it breaks my heart," Graves explained. "It's a teary-eyed moment on the way home, but I believe in the overall purpose and us doing our job to the best of our ability and training."

The duo have helped locate three missing people in the past few months or so.

Meanwhile, K-9 Faust, a Dutch Shepherd, and his handler, Deputy Dave Nevins find missing people and suspects along with discovering crime scene evidence and drugs. Compared to K-9 Nellie, who focuses on one scent, Faust is able to hone in on multiple odors.

"He's looking for human odor as well as ground disturbance, broken grass blades, or turned-over dirt -- that type of thing, when we are doing a track," Nevins said.

During the summer, Nevins said he and Faust, some days, might be doing two or three "tracks" in a day. They'll search for "articles," items such as knives, guns, cell phones or drugs, wherever the Cass County Sheriff's Office needs them.

Faust and Nevins assist other police agencies in performing narcotics searches. The K-9 also is trained to help his handler fight and can shut his own door to the police SUV.

Deputy K-9 Baxter, a black Labrador, is a therapy dog for victims having to be interviewed or testify inside the Cass County Law and Courts Building.

"[Police therapy dogs] have to be exposed to a lot of different environmental things. He can't have reactions to people yelling, screaming and loud noises. He can't be fearful of those kinds of things," said Deputy Tim Gondeck, Baxter's handler.

Gondeck purchased Baxter and took the dog home at 7 weeks old, training him on his own time. The Cass County Sheriff's Office accepted Gondeck's proposal to make his black Lab a certified therapy dog to introduce to the county court. Baxter is one of the only police therapy dogs in the state of Michigan to be on a sheriff's department.

To follow K-9 Baxter on Facebook, click here.

To follow K-9 Nellie on Facebook, click here.