Four-legged deputies serve Kendall County
When Paul Kubinski saw an opportunity to work in a specialized field in law enforcement, he took a chance. Kubinski was one of several Kendall County sheriff’s deputies to apply for a new role as K-9 handler.
A deputy with the department for three years, Kubinski was chosen to take on the special task and, after 14 weeks of training with his new partner, is now one of three dog/deputy teams in Kendall County. Kubinski and Zyggi serve alongside Jason Flanders and Tazwell, and Tim DeCamp and Luke.
From the first meeting at the training school in Fort Wayne, Ind., dog and handler spend every moment together, bonding and learning. While the dog is a valuable tool, each also lives with his handler.
“He knows his role in the house,” Kubinski said.
“Dogs are pack animals. They need socialization, and it wasn’t that difficult to socialize him with my family,” Kubinski said. Although he can’t be considered the family pet, he said Zyggi is controlled easily by his wife and children, ages 5 and 10.
“The dog understands his place in the pecking order at home. I’m No. 1, my wife is No. 2, kids are No. 3 and he’s last,” DeCamp said. That can change in an instant if a stranger were to enter their home, he said.
Luke, a 3-year-old German shepherd, is protective of his handler, and doesn’t allow anyone to get too close to DeCamp.
Tazwell, a 4-year-old German shepherd, and Zyggi, a 17-month-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, are a little more social with strangers.
Kubinski said breeders have found the Malinois breed brings a calmer nature to the mixture. Zyggi is about the same height with the same coloring as his German shepherd counterparts, but he is slimmer and his coat is not as thick, giving him a more sleek appearance.
Along with socializing with the handler’s family when not on duty, the dogs work and train with each other as well as handler/dog teams from other area departments.
“Our department has had a mandate from day one of the program for 16 hours of continuing training each month. Starting in July, the state will have the same requirement. We were ahead of the curve on that one,” Flanders said.
Flanders said the working life of a police dog is generally six to eight years, depending on the health of the animal. The team Kubinski and Zyggi replaced worked together for about four years until Greg Shadle’s dog had problems with his hips, a common malady for larger dogs.
Shadle has adopted his former partner as his family pet, according to Deputy Craig French.
All three dogs are narcotics dogs, and Flanders said they are called to various county schools for locker searches about once a year. “We do the search and then turn over anything we might find to the school to handle administratively. We don’t search the schools unless we are asked.”
But the utility of the warm-blooded tool doesn’t stop there. The dogs are trained to do building searches, track a subject such as a suspect or a lost child, find an object, subdue a subject and protect their handlers.
Flanders described a case where he and Tazwell were called to track a subject after a robbery. The subject got away in that instance, but Tazwell did locate a weapon carried by the subject.
Because police dogs are not intimidated by even the biggest or toughest-looking subjects, Kubinski called them “the great equalizer,” as he scratched Zyggi’s head.
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