PORTAGE | The Portage Police Department welcomed its three newest officers this week.
Bomber, Bolo and Chuckie will begin patrolling the city's streets this week along with their handlers patrolmen Kyle Lerch, Wendell Hite and Richard Schmitt, respectively.
The three canines were recently purchased by the department and, along with their handlers, completed six weeks of training. The canines are now certified through the American Police Work Dog Training Association.
Bomber is a 2-year-old German shepherd, originally from Poland. Like the other canines, he takes his commands in various European languages.
"He is with me 24 hours a day," said Lerch. "He lives with me. He is part of the family, but you can't treat him like a pet."
The dogs are continuously trained in narcotics, tracking, apprehension, officer safety, crowd control and building and area searches.
"He and I are bonding every day," Hite said of Bolo, a 14-month-old German shepherd, also from Poland. "On Sundays, he gets to be a dog."
The two officers both said they aspired to be canine handlers not only because of their love of dogs, but also because of the intensity of the work and the knowledge of what their special partners can bring to the department and the city.
"They can see and sniff things that we won't be able to see and sniff," said Hite, adding the dogs can find anything from criminal activity to a missing elderly resident.
The department has been without a canine unit for over a year when the last dog, Eros, became ill and died.
Police Chief Troy Williams said they are hoping to add a fourth dog to the department within the next year to allow a canine to work each shift.
The dogs are housed in the officers' homes. A special canine cage is installed in each of the officers' vehicles to safely transport the dogs.