The Albany Police Department lost someone willing to mix it up with the worst criminals for the public’s safety, a worker who had been punched, kicked, choked and even beat with a 2-by-4 that had nails sticking out of it.
By all accounts, Joeri, pronounced “Yuri,” was a good dog.
The 12-year-old canine had to be put to sleep on Dec. 3.
“The last few years, he’s been battling kidney disease,” said Officer Nate Ard, Joeri’s handler.
Ard said Joeri, a tracking and protection dog, had two distinct personalities — teddy bear and ferocious beast.
“He was super social with people. We did tons of community events. On the other hand, he was a tremendous fighter out on the street,” Ard said.
Though Joeri was officially the city of Albany’s property, the dog lived with Ard.
The Albany Police Department currently has two police dogs, one to detect drugs, and the other for patrols.
The department is looking at getting a replacement for Joeri in early 2014, and the total costs of the canine and training will be near $14,000, said Capt. Eric Carter.
Carter added that there will be a selection process for the coveted canine handler position.
Ard said he wants to partner with another dog.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of extra work and time,” he said.
It’s also worth it, he added, saying that Joeri tracked down multiple suspects that had gone unnoticed by human officers. With his keen nose and other senses, Joeri could search an area much faster than his two-legged co-workers.
“You can catch the people that don’t easily get caught,” Ard said.
Carter agreed. “It’s hard to put a price tag on how valuable they are. When you get a capture, they pay off,” he said.
Carter added that police dogs also serve as a deterrent so suspects don’t try to fight officers.
During one memorable incident in Sweet Home, a suspect brandishing a knife came at officers, and he wasn’t being affected by Taser shocks. Joeri held him down until he could be arrested, Ard said.
“That guy’s probably still alive today because of Joeri,” he added.
Joeri had worked for about two years while he was sick.
“He was obviously slowing down toward the end, but he was able to work until the age of 12, which is pretty uncommon for police dogs,” Ard said.
And when Joeri retired Nov. 13, the department had a party in his honor, complete with cake and doggie treats.
Joeri wore his police gear one last time as he rode in a patrol car to the veterinarian on Dec. 3.