BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Last fall Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber made a campaign promise to bring a K9 unit onto the sheriff’s staff.
That promise named “Alex” made a panting entrance at the Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday with Deputy Uriah Wheatley at the leash.
The full bred German Shepherd will work solely with Wheatley as his handler and was picked up this week by Weber and Wheatley and will head back to Fort Dodge for an additional four weeks of training starting next week.
Weber said Alex had to showcase his training as a test prior to leaving the training center in Fort Dodge.
“He had to walk among about 10 cars and pick out the one that had the contraband in it,” Weber said “He recognized the right vehicle and when they opened the doors you could see it was in there.”
The Shepherd is mostly black in color with smatterings of brown and white on his legs and underside and was born in Poland.
Wheatley said the relationship is still being built and everything is new to Alex and the department.
“We’re making quick progress. We’ve only had him for about 36 hours and we’re already seeing improvements.
Alex will live and work with the handler to create the critical bond that will result in the best performance of the team.
The two will spend most of their time with each other. Wheatley said he will be building a privacy fence at his home for the animal to have a bit more room, but right now a 10′ x 10′ kennel is on the property.
Weber said Alex will also serve a public relations role with the department. He will be able to be taken to events, through schools, and will be part of the Lee County D.A.R.E. program. Wheatley will be the deputy assigned to the D.A.R.E. program with Alex.
Right now the dog has a minor ear infection in his right ear. Weber said he was in the Donnellson 4th of July parade Tuesday, but kept him on the flatbed trailer because of the ear infection.
“We had him in the parade yesterday but we didn’t let him down because of that. Everyone would have wanted to pet his head and that probably wasn’t a good idea,” Weber said.
“The funding for Alex so far has come from private donations to the Lee County K9 Association. The group is a board of volunteers charged with promoting K9 awareness and funding throughout Lee County. Weber said the group specifically kept the name Lee County so it could be of assistance to Fort Madison and Keokuk police departments should they want to consider adding a K9 unit.
“One of the good things is that through the generosity of the Lee County communities, this hasn’t cost the taxpayers anything,” he said.
A second dog is in the works and should be in the area in November or December. Weber said the second dog will be a tracking animal.
The dog will be called to a lot of things and we don’t want to burn out Deputy Wheatley on overtime. When we get two dogs we will be able to use one from the day shift, which will be Deputy Wheatley and the one at night with Deputy Fuller,” Weber said. “Alex is more of a friendly dog and the other one we’re told is not so much, so Alex will be on the day shift and the other dog will be on nights.”
In other action at the brief supervisors meeting, the board:
- approved 5-0 to amend the Medical Examiner’s agreement with Des Moines and Henry counties and Great River Health Systems to include a 120-day notice to terminate the agreement.
- canvassed and approved the Fort Madison School Bond election results.
- approved a new hire for the sheriff’s office and a new hire for the RUSS (Regional Utility Service System)
- heard from Supervisor Don Hunold that the liaison with the Dakota Pipeline is recommending further seeding be temporarily halted until the fall due to the hot, dry soil conditions.
- approved a second reading of a countywide public nuisance tax sale ordinance, that would allow abatements for cities that are looking to purchase and raze nuisance properties.