Unbreakable bond, Daniel and Otos have a strong bond on and off duty
Published 6:55 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019
LaFAYETTE — There’s a longstanding saying that a dog is a man’s best friend.
Those words have never rung truer to Kegan Daniel, patrol sergeant and K-9 officer with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office.
His pet, partner and best friend is a German Shepherd and Malinois mix named Otos. The duo has been a team for about two years in the sheriff’s department and has been responsible for tracking several individuals and finding narcotics.
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In fact, Daniel said Otos was responsible for finding 46 grams of methamphetamine during a traffic stop this past week. He said the drugs were hidden behind a front fender, and it’s possible the police would have missed it.
“If you think about it, 46 grams at $100 a gram, that’s $4,600 worth of meth,” Daniel said. “That makes it a trafficking case.”
Daniel spent four weeks in a classroom learning how to handle service dogs and how to train them. After he completed the classroom portion of the training, he chose Otos out of 10 to 20 dogs and learned he was actually the second handler for the dog.
Daniel said the dogs are smart. Once they pick up a scent and start tracking, it’s hard to throw them off of it. Additionally, if there is a suspicion of drugs in a home or traffic stop, they will sniff it out and lead officers straight to the source. Once the dog alerts officers to drugs, it is probable cause in Alabama to perform a search.
Daniel said the dog knows what it is looking for, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the reward, which is usually green, fuzzy and bounces a lot.
“They know once they find the drugs or the person they are tracking, they know they get their reward, usually in the form of a tennis ball,” he said.
There are strict records that must be kept every time the dog is used or trained. Daniel broke out hundreds of logs from when Otos was trained or performed a search just in the past two years.
Major T.J. Wood with the sheriff’s office, said the dogs are multi-faceted in what they can do.
“It is not only the narcotics that they helpful in getting — they are also helpful when an elderly person or child gets lost,” he said. “The dogs are a tool, and in my opinion, are something every department needs and doesn’t want to do without.”
Otos is about eight and a half years old, and will probably work another two years, Daniel said, depending on his health. After the dog retires, Otos will be awarded to Daniel to be his full-time pet. Right now, he is technically owned by the sheriff’s office.
Daniel said Otos said whether he’s working or not working the two spend most of their time together.
“I’m around him more than my own wife and kid,” Daniel said. “You get very attached to him.”
Wood said a lot of departments either have a place for the dog after hours on police property or the handler can take the dog home. In Chambers County, the handlers have a choice.
“It is a great bond,” he said. “The dog ends up being your partner and best friend, and you really can’t do without him. You end up spending more time with them than you do your own family.”
The dogs are looked after well, too. If Daniel has to be in the courthouse, assisting a citizen or even out to lunch, there are heat sensors in his vehicle to keep Otos from overheating. Usually, he said he’ll keep the car running with the air conditioning on when it’s warm outside, but if the vehicle shuts off or the air conditioning fails, there is a temperature sensor that will activate if it reaches more than 90 degrees.
If it reaches the high temperatures, the windows in the back roll down, a fan kicks on and a police vehicle lights and sirens go off to alert the officer that something is wrong.
Daniel said the dogs are about $10,000 when they are first purchased. Then, it is about $1,000 a year after food and medical bills. However, the dogs pay for themselves quickly. He said one moderate drug bust and the dog almost offsets what the department paid for it.
Wood said the cost isn’t too much after the initial payment, but there are some invaluable things the dog does.“You can’t put a dollar value on locating a missing child or a person with Alzheimer’s disease that has wandered off,” he said. “You just can’t put a price on it.”
Otos is one of two K9 officers at the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office.