Faced with a life of police patrols, chasing suspects and drug hunts, the Spokane Police Department’s newest recruit has just one thing to do for the next few months: play.
Ajax, a 2-month-old German shepherd, is due for lots of tug-of-war in a newly reinstated police puppy training program after his breeder, Nikolay Lungu, of Pullman, donated him to the department.
Touched by the recent shooting of now-retired police dog Var, Lungu, owner of the Pullman-based German shepherd breeding business I-Guard International, said he agreed to donate the puppy after being contacted by Spokane K-9 trainer Shawn Kendall.
Ajax will be raised by Officer Jay Kernkamp for about a year, then live with a trained police K-9 handler once he’s ready for patrol. Lungu recommended Ajax because of his dominant personality.
Training experts look for self-confidence when finding candidates for police dogs.
“My dog will have to go under a house to find a bad guy. What’s a scarier situation to put an animal in?” Kendall asked. “He needs to have extreme confidence.”
Ajax met with local media Wednesday, frolicking in the grass with Kernkamp outside the Spokane police training center.
“The fact that he can come out here with all this equipment and all these people to play like that shows a very confident dog,” Kendall said.
Ajax will be socialized to people and different environments over the next few months before joining a K-9 sergeant for patrol training. Police expect him to be ready for patrol in one to two years.
The dog is a great deal for the department. The last dog brought in, Rav, was purchased for about $10,000 from Holland.
Lungu sells his dogs for as much as $2,500 but said Ajax is his way of giving back to the community.
“I knew (the Spokane police) were kind of hitting some hard times with all the budget cuts and everything else,” Lungu said.
“We’re probably going to donate at least one more dog to them.”
Ajax will be the only dog in Kernkamp’s home.
The officer is already anticipating a bittersweet departure when Ajax is ready for patrol.
“It’s going to be hard to let him go after a year, but at least I know he’ll be doing a good thing,” Kernkamp said.
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