ALBANY, Ga. -- German shepherds used in law enforcement generally inspire thoughts of escaped suspects run to ground by snarling adversaries.
Well, they can do that. They can also do much more, according to Dougherty County Police Department Sgt. Lee Reynolds.
"They can be gentle enough to find a lost child or an Alzheimer's patient without scaring them," Reynolds said. "I've been out to the fair and children run up and pet him."
Reynolds and his K-9 partner, Dome, met about 100 Exchange Club members and guests at club's Friday lunch meeting. Reynolds demonstrated the dog's obedience and concentration for the gathering after a roast beef lunch by Dollie Dollar and her Grapevine catering.
Dome ignored the smell of beef and responded to Reynold's oral and hand commands to lie down, sit, stay and come when called without blinking an eye. Reynolds spent eight weeks in training classes at a North Carolina kennel specializing in police dogs with Dome.
Many times the training lasted from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It was training so that Reynolds and the dog could work as a team. Reynolds outlined the police functions for which the Dome is trained.
Reynold's K-9 partner can track a fugitive by smell, search for a burglar in a building, find evidence such as shell casings and pinpoint a crime scene. Dome will smell objects that do not belong in the environment, Reynolds said.
"In the case of a rape, a woman may not know where she was attacked," Reynolds said. "She might say she lost an earring there. We would search the area and find where the earring was lost."
Just because Dome is gentle enough to find a child or an elderly person doesn't mean that he is not relied upon to cover his partner's back, Reynolds said.
"He is trained in apprehension," Reynolds said. "He is trained to respond if anyone attacks me. No one wants to fight an 85-pound German shepherd."
Many at the club meeting expected that Dome and the other K-9 in the county police are trained to find drugs. Reynolds explained that in Dougherty County that is the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit's responsibility.
Dome -- the name is French for "trained" -- cost $10,200, none of which was from taxpayers, reynolds said. The money for the dogs, leashes, pens and other equipment came from a fundraising effort by Reynolds, K-9 officer Bob James, business people and concerned residents.
"We've raised between $80,000 and $100,000," Reynolds said. "A committee, South Georgia Resource Group, was formed and we are seeking non-profit status."
Reynolds and the group hopes to buy two more of the dogs, which are specially bred in the Czech Republic from bloodlines of other dogs that have mastered the work of a K-9.
"He is a German shepherd, born Czech," Reynolds said. "His name is French and I have no idea why."
French name or not, Exchange Club members seemed impressed by Dome.
"I didn't know that he had to be gentle enough to be with children or Alzheimer's patients," said David Baranko. "That's really a well-trained dog."