Kent Police Department welcomes new K-9 member


Kent Police Sgt. Dominic Poe prepares Iron, his new police dog from Czechoslovakia, for a night watch Thursday, Feb. 25, 2014. Iron will be training at Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds in Wapakoneta, Ohio starting March 17 in order to become an official police dog.

Brooke Bower

The Kent Police Department has added a new four-legged officer to the force. Iron, a 20-month-old German Shepherd, will serve in the department’s second K-9 unit and fall under the care of Officer Dominic Poe.

Poe said he’s excited to bring Iron to the force and noted the pup is already quickly adjusting to his new role.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” Poe said. “One of the reasons I wanted to be a police officer was to have a K-9, so it’s pretty cool.”

Sgt. Jim Ennemoser, Kent Police Department K-9 Administrator, said the need for a second K-9 unit arose when the senior K-9 handler Martin Gilliland retired in June.

The department budgeted $12,000 for a new K-9, but the total cost for Iron — training and necessary equipment —totaled $13,480. Lt. James Prusha of the Kent Police Department said illegal drug seizures covered the additional $1,480.

Poe has volunteered his own time to help with monthly training for the local departments K-9, and after six and a half years with the department he said he felt comfortable enough with the program to pursue becoming the next K-9 handler.

To be selected as the next handler, Poe said he went through an hour-long assessment with four experienced K-9 handlers from the area. Ennemoser also did a home visit to make sure Poe’s living situation and family would be the right fit for a K-9 unit.

“I want to do whatever I can to keep the success of the K-9 program going,” Poe said. “We’ve had a lot of handlers in the past that have built it up to where it’s at. It’s the city of Kent’s dog, and I’m just fortunate to be the one handling him. I’m going to do my best.”

Poe traveled with other Kent officers to hand-select Iron from 12 available dogs on Feb. 17. He entered the first kennel of 15 dogs. There was something about Iron that made him the first dog he chose to take out of the kennel for testing. Each of the 12 dogs went through a series of tests that included sociability, scent work and drive; but Iron never left the back of Poe’s mind.

“Once I selected Iron, the first thing they have you do is give him a bath,” Poe said. “Just me and him, so it was kind of a cool way to get acquainted with him.”

Additionally, Ennemoser said Iron’s sociability and drive separated him from the rest of the dogs.

Poe said Iron licked and sniffed him at every stop on the drive back to Kent, and their bond has been growing ever since. The next few weeks are set aside to be an adjustment period for Iron where he’s able to enjoy being a typical dog with a loving home. He was specifically bred in Czechoslovakia to be a work dog and then flown to an Ohio seller.

Poe said he doesn’t think Iron has ever been in a house before arriving in the states and is thankful for Mike, his own German Shepherd, who is helping Iron transition into his new home.

“These dogs are flown half way across the world and expected to perform when they get here,” Poe said of Iron’s adjustment to a new home. “It’s a little rough on them. They need a buddy — somebody to pair up with.”

On March 17, Poe and Iron will start a six-week training program together. They will train at Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds and Police K9 Academy in Wapakoneta. The duo will train together for 12 to 14 hours a day Monday through Friday.

Iron will receive obedience training and will specifically be trained in patrol, handler protection and utility, which includes tracking and narcotics, Ennemoser said. He will be able to smell the odor of marijuana, crack and cocaine, heroin and meth by the end of his training. The team will also be able to conduct building, area and article searches.

At the end of the training, Poe and Iron will have to pass a test and will be tested every year through the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers.     

Upon course completion, Ennemoser said Iron becomes a regular employee, working 40 hours a week with Poe. They will be assigned to a road unit that will be equipped with an open back and cage for Iron.

Poe will take normal calls, Ennemoser said but will also be expected to take K-9 specific calls — even if he isn’t on duty.

“Sgt. Ennemoser pointed this out: Basically, my job for six weeks is to go play with my dog, and that’s awesome,” Poe said with a laugh. “I’m super excited for that. These dogs just love to work because they’re playing. They don’t know that what they’re going to be doing is dangerous. It’s all play to them. All the tasks we ask them to do is for a toy or reward, and they want to perform for you and please you.”

Contact Brooke Bower at [email protected].