LPD K9 handler receives new dog
By Melanie Ruberti
It did not take Andy long to hunt down and catch his first set of alleged felony criminals.
The hybrid German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois located stolen merchandise taken from the Home Depot in a thicket of woods off Carr Road on April 24. Andy then tracked down the two alleged thieves nearly two miles away, deeper into the woods, where they were hiding from law enforcement officers.
Zachary Wilson, 22 and Joshua Riser, 25 were both arrested for the crime. Wilson was charged on numerous counts including theft, possession of drugs and leading police on a high speed chase.
For LaGrange Police Officer and K9 Handler Joshua Clower, those arrests were a huge win for him and his new K9, Andy.
“You can do the training as much as you want to, but you never know what’s going to
happen when you go out on a track,” Clower explained about the search for Wilson and Riser. “They (suspects) had an hour and 45-minute jump on me. I wasn’t sure if he’d (Andy) be able to take all the pieces and put it together. But he did, and did it very well. He had some pretty big shoes to fill – and he did.”
Andy’s predecessor was Deek, also a Belgian Malinois.
Clower and Deek became partners when the officer joined the LPD K9 Unit in March, 2008.
The two were inseparable. Deek quickly became part of Clower’s family. His oldest daughter
nicknamed the dog “Deeky Boy” and the family had a special routine when Clower and Deek arrived home at night.
“My girls would be waiting at the door for us and said, ‘We want to see you and Deeky Boy dance,’ and I would make Deek dance for them,” Clower remembered. “Deek would jump up and put his front paws in my hands and we would do whatever dance they requested. I think he got pretty used to doing it and would be waiting for me to put my hands out when I got him out of the car.”
Sadly, Deek passed away in August of 2016 after veterinarians discovered the dog had a pinched nerve in his neck, making it difficult for him to walk.
It was a tough time for the officer and his family.
But Clower loved being apart the K9 Unit – and six months later was tasked with training his new partner, Andy.
This time, Clower had his work cut out for him. Andy was only 10-months-old and still considered a puppy.
“We had to start from the beginning. He (Andy) didn’t know anything about tracking, aggression and apprehension work,” the officer explained. “We worked on building those attributes, then we spent five weeks in Alabama at a training school to build the dog’s drive and motivation.”
Andy is now certified in narcotics detection, tracking (criminals or missing persons), apprehensions and article searches.
“If a suspect throws items out of a car, like stolen goods or a gun, he (Andy) can find it,” Clower said.
Which the K9 proved with great gusto on April 24, in his search and apprehension of Wilson and Risher.
Clower admitted it was hard to let go of Deek.
“You get used to doing something with a dog, he knows what you are going to do and vice versa,” Clower said. “I could read Deek by his ears, breathing, mannerisms, you all are on the same sheet of music. You’ll never have a dog like the first dog you had.”
But the officer said he is committed to learning more about Andy – and making him a new part of his family.
“I’m still getting used to reading him, but he has shown me he can do the job,” Clower said. “He’s ‘genetically gifted’ in some ways more than Deek, and vice versa. Andy’s still got a lot of puppy in him, and he’s more social than Deek. For me, personally, I had to set some of my emotions for Deek aside and move on with this new dog.
“But my girls have already nicknamed Andy and they’ve taken to him,” Clower continued. “He’s slowly becoming family.”
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.