August 1, 2014

Elyria
Mostly sunny
71°F
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Elyria police dogs get some extra protection

ELYRIA — You hope you never need it, but it’s always good to have it.

That’s about the gist of Elyria police Officer Rick Walker’s feelings about the new bulletproof vest that his police dog, Stuka, will have access to, thanks to a donation from a telecommunications giant.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Officer Rick Walker and Stuka examine one of two new body armors presented to the Elyria K-9 Unit on Saturday before the Cleveland Pops concert in Ely Square.

Windstream Communications officials on Saturday donated two bulletproof vests to Elyria police department’s two police dog units, Stuka and Baron.

The donation by Windstream kicked off the evening in Ely Square on Saturday, where hundreds of people gathered to hear the Cleveland Pops Orchestra perform in perfect harmony and perfect weather.

Windstream officials said the donations to the Elyria police dog units were simply a gesture “in support of the efforts that the police department and K-9 group provides.”

Stuka, a 100-pound German Shepherd that sports a tough charcoal-and-honey-colored coat — and an even tougher bark — is currently the Elyria police department’s only police dog. The other police dog, Baron, is still in training, but is expected to join the department within the coming weeks, said Elyria police Chief Mike Medders.

Walker, Stuka’s handler, said the dog is part of his family, so it’s reassuring to know the dog will now have some added protection on the beat.

“He’s like having another child at home,” said Walker, who has been with Elyria police for 15 years, but only in the past year was assigned to the K-9 unit, after Stuka was purchased through a local donation.

“He’s very protective and clear-headed, and he’s really an intelligent dog,” Walker said.

While Stuka renders himself a bit unapproachable with his fierce bark and matching pearly whites, Walker said he lives with him at home and is great with his three children.

With criminals … that’s a different matter.

In the past year, Stuka has been involved in more than 100 different incidents, including drug busts, police chases, crowd control and other events, Walker said. 

Among the most recent incident was a package intercept, where Walker and Stuka — following a tip from an outside police agency — intercepted a FedEx package containing seven pounds of marijuana.

The marijuana’s sender had wrapped the cellophane and vacuum-sealed the package, and also coated it in more than two pounds of axle grease to cloak the smell, then sealed the package’s seams with super glue, Walker said.

Still, the dog sniffed it out. Walker even put the package in a locker full of various chemicals and scents to further cloak the smell — just to verify it was the right package — and the dog still tracked it down.

Walker worked eight- and 12-hour days every day for more than three months last year to train with Stuka, whose specialties are in human tracking, area searches, article searches and narcotics searches. Among the drugs Stuka can detect: marijuana, methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and any of the drugs’ derivatives.  

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.