County officer collects donations to fund second K-9

BROWNSTOWN — In some cases, two is better than one.

That’s true with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 program.

In 2020, Nyx became the department’s first police dog after she and Sgt. Ben Rudolph completed an eight-week K-9 handler course. They were then certified through the North American Police Work Dog Association.

Rudolph had 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. No taxpayer dollars were used.

Rudolph said it was up to Sheriff Rick Meyer to determine if the program was beneficial enough to add another dog.

One day last year, Officer Kevin Settle talked to Meyer, and the sheriff said he would love to have a second K-9.

“It’s just budgetwise, we don’t want to raise the budget. We didn’t want to raise taxpayer dollars,” Settle said. “I had seen other departments that had funded a K-9 program through donations, so I asked the sheriff if that would be possible, and he said, ‘Yeah.’ If we can get it all donated, he goes, ‘Absolutely.’”

Late last year into this year, Settle sought donations from businesses around the county, and they came through along with some individual donations to raise nearly $28,000.

“I wasn’t too surprised because we live in a great community, obviously,” Settle said. “Everybody was willing to help.”

Settle said Meyer received approval from the Jackson County Council to establish a nonreverting fund for the K-9 program, and people can stop by the sheriff’s department to make a donation to cover food, veterinarian bills and equipment needed for the dogs.

“I’m pretty happy with that,” Settle said. “None of this could have been done without the community, Ben and the sheriff. You’ve got to thank all of them. I just want to try to help the community out as best I can.”

The funds Settle raised covered his dog, Zanko, a German shepherd that’s a year and seven months old, their six weeks of training together at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, equipment, a cage for his truck and a kennel at his house.

Training started Sept. 26 and ended Nov. 4, and their first shift on the road working as K-9 team was Nov. 8.

Settle said Rudolph and Nyx trained at Glenn & Rick’s K9 Academy in Jeffersonville, but that facility recently stopped doing handler courses, so they recommended going to Shallow Creek.

Settle filled out paperwork, had Meyer sign it, sent it back and then got accepted into a training session.

The class began with 22 officers, but Settle said some were only there for four weeks to get training for a single-purpose police dog. The rest, including Zanko, were trained to be dual-purpose dogs for the full six weeks.

After some classroom work teaching the officers to be a K-9 handler, the focus turned to hands-on work with their dog.

“The dogs, they already know the stuff when you get there,” Settle said, referring to commands and the odor of narcotics. “They’ve got trainers that work there full time and spend six weeks training the dogs after you come up and pick out a dog you want, and they start training them before you. The dogs get 12 weeks of training.”

Dual-purpose dogs are trained in patrol and narcotics, so they can do narcotics searches, article searches, tracking and apprehension and release. They are not bite dogs.

“It’s just teaching us how to do it and getting the dogs used to us to do it for us,” Settle said. “There’s a command tone. There’s a correction tone. There’s an enforcement tone. Body language and your tone of voice are big with dogs. I would have never guessed that. It’s huge. You can’t just look at them and tell them. You’ve got to have that body language. It’s kind of like an alpha status that you have over the dog.”

From the first day working with Zanko to the end of the training, Settle said it was night and day.

“Those dogs didn’t really want to listen to any of us. They don’t know us,” he said. “By the end of it, you’ve spent so much time with them, they finally start to click. Everything just started clicking. I was getting it. We were in sync. The training was going good.”

Upon graduation, Settle and Zanko became a certified K-9 team through Shallow Creek and NAPWDA.

Settle said that national accreditation is required by most law enforcement agencies with a K-9 program, and there are several benefits to the sheriff’s department now having two K-9s.

“It’s a lot easier to have two to cover the county,” he said. “It’s hard for each one to cover. Our county is pretty big. Ben and I won’t work the same schedule. We’ll do opposite schedules. Now you have two, it just takes the workload off one guy. If he goes on vacation, there’s still one. If I go on vacation, there’s still one. (When there was just one K-9), he goes on vacation, we don’t have one. He was the only one.”

When he was a road officer, Settle said he got to see Rudolph and Nyx work together and was impressed.

“I’ve been talking to Ben quite a bit about this before this actually happened wanting to do it,” Settle said. “Ben has been a real asset in helping me get this going and will be a huge asset in keeping this going because just from what I’ve seen, Ben is an amazing handler. His dog and him make a great team.”

Settle is ready to watch Zanko in action.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to help the rest of the guys here or any department here in this county, assist them in locating narcotics, getting drugs off the street,” he said. “If a serious bad guy takes off or something, they can’t find them, hopefully, we can get out, we can track them, we can find them, get them apprehended so they are not a danger to the public anymore. It’s a great tool. Their noses are just way more powerful than ours. They can locate things we can’t.”

Settle and Zanko will go to the academy in Jeffersonville on a monthly basis for maintenance training and also go there on an annual basis to recertify through NAPWDA.

“It just keeps the dog working so he knows this is what he’s supposed to do,” Settle said of the maintenance training. “We keep doing it because at least there, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do all the time. Here, you never know if you’re going to do something with the dog or not. … The maintenance training just keeps them in the mindset to work.”

Settle, now nearly nine years into his law enforcement career, is happy to be where he’s at because it fulfills a longtime dream.

His grandfather, Ted Settle, worked in law enforcement for almost 50 years and was his influence in pursuing that field. He had worked for the Indiana State Police and Marion County Sheriff’s Department. Ted died a year ago from liver cancer.

“He helped his neighbor in Indianapolis, who is Beech Grove city K-9. He would take care of his dog when he would go on vacation, so when I was up there sometimes visiting him when I was little, I would go over there and help take care of the dog with him. I thought that was pretty neat,” Kevin said.

“I just thought that was the neatest job ever back then,” he said. “You hear all of those old stories of helping people, getting the real bad people off the street and stuff like that. When you’re little, police are your heroes, and I had a grandpa that was.”