When Sgt. Ben Rudolph with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department hits the road these days, he has a new — and particularly obedient — companion.
She goes by the name of Nyx and is the first police dog to serve with the sheriff’s department.
The Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix is trained as a police utility dog. Her areas of expertise include building and area searches, tracking, aggression control and narcotics detection.
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Her name comes from the Greek goddess of night and the fact she is entirely black.
The idea for the sheriff’s department getting a new police dog started with Sheriff Rick Meyer.
“We’ve never had one at the sheriff’s department, and he was wanting that to happen,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph applied for a grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and was able to secure $25,553 in funding to start the K-9 program.
The money was used to purchase Nyx and pay for most of her equipment needs and required training.
Because the K-9 program was started through the grant, no taxpayer dollars are being used for the program, Rudolph said.
To become Nyx’s handler, Rudolph had to complete an eight-week K-9 handler course through Police Service Dog Consulting in Jeffersonville.
Rudolph said the training experience was very intense and required him to put in eight- to 12-hour days Monday through Friday.
Nyx was a “green” dog, meaning she had either minimal or no training, he said.
“The training in the beginning was just obedience, lead control and how to work with this dog all the way up to doing scenario-based training with the dog with other people,” Rudolph said.
He is now certified through the North American Police Work Dog Association.
When choosing what dog to purchase for the K-9 program, Rudolph said he worked with Glenn Jackson, owner of Police Service Dog Consulting. They obtained the dog through FM K9 in Michigan.
Rudolph said they first tested dogs to see how they work in different environments.
“You test their drive, their prey drive by using a ball, which is their reward to see how long they will hunt for a ball and what environments they will hunt for the ball and how long will they will hunt,” Rudolph said.
The dogs also were tested for how they respond to different surfaces, like carpet or tile, how they are on stairs and their depth perception.
Rudolph said dogs don’t have very good depth perception, and that can be really intimidating for them.
Gunfire drills also were tested.
Once the dogs were tested, the list was narrowed down into a smaller group Rudolph and Jackson were able to select from, and from there, it just came down to personal preference.
Nyx was 15 months old when she was selected for the job.
She now lives with Rudolph and comes to work with him every day. They are always on duty together.
To make sure he is qualified to be Nyx’s handler, Rudolph must train 16 hours a month to keep up with his initial training.
He said he’s a part of a regional K-9 training group that includes police dogs with the Seymour Police Department, Jennings County Sheriff’s Department, North Vernon Police Department and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
Rudolph received his certification in late July, and Nyx went on duty in August.
On the possibility of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department getting another K-9, Rudolph said it’s up to the sheriff, but he hopes the program proves to be beneficial enough to add another dog.
“I hope this is shown to be a very beneficial tool for law enforcement that they will see that and if we have the manpower to do it,” Rudolph said.
In the time the department has had Nyx, Rudolph said it has been absolutely beneficial.
“The primary purpose of a police canine is essentially to locate things. Whether that’s evidence, people, drugs, narcotics … their primary purpose is to locate,” he said. “They have a sense of smell that we just don’t, and that’s how they do it. If you’re searching in a big, open area for an article, it doesn’t matter. It is just so much easier to use a dog because they can find them better.”
Personal experience has shown Nyx is a professional when trying to locate lost articles.
“The other day, we went on a call and somebody had lost their keys in a field. I deployed my dog, and she found the guy’s keys,” Rudolph said.
Nyx uses human odor to be able to find certain items as a police utility dog.
Rudolph said police dogs can be trained to smell specific scents, such as accelerants, bombs and even firearms.
Rudolph said he has had a fulfilling experience working with Nyx.
“It has been a great experience,” he said. “It’s very demanding. Having a K-9 never stops. Even when you’re off duty, you still have the dog.”