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Jeff Manes: Rocky is this patrolman’s best friend

Doug Parker patrolman Canine Unit for Lake County Sheriff’s Department is pictured with his partner  Rocky Dutch shepherd.

Doug Parker, a patrolman on the Canine Unit for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, is pictured with his partner, Rocky, a Dutch shepherd. | Photo provided

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AT A GLANCE

† To buy a sweatshirt ($30) or T-shirt ($15) from the Lake County Canine Association, e-mail lccanineassociation@gmail.com or write to: Lake County Canine Association, P.O. Box 161, Lowell, IN.
† Include contact information and size(s) needed. Shirts can be mailed or dropped off. All proceeds go to the LCCA.

Updated: August 30, 2012 6:01AM



“I am a deputy in a canine crew.

I’ve been trained to see it through.

When dangers near, my ears perk up,

they taught me that as a little pup.

I’m often there to protect your rights,

my presence sometimes hinders fights.

I never attack with the thought to kill,

when subduing one, my job I fill.

I never worry a single thought,

as to how I’ll fare in a certain spot.

The love I have for a handler’s care,

is all I need, each day to fare.

And if some day my luck turns bad,

I’ll relish all the joys I’ve had.

To be with men who stand for good,

in a splendid kind of brotherhood.

The story’s end by now you know,

of how I tried for a better show.

I did my best, though I did fall,

when I was called and gave my all.”

— Author unknown

Doug Parker, 28, lives in Lowell with his wife, Becca. They’ve been married eight years and are raising three children ages 4, 5 and 6.

Parker has lived in Lowell all his life and graduated from Lowell High School. He is a patrolman on the Canine Unit for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

***

That’s a nice pike you have hanging on the wall. How big was it?

“It was 42 inches long and weighed about 20 pounds,” Parker said. “I caught it on a black buzz bait.”

How long have you been a police officer?

“Almost seven years; I was hired as soon as I turned 21.”

When you were a boy, did you want to become a police officer?

“Yep, it’s kind of like a family tradition. My dad was a police officer and my brother is a police officer. I have uncles who are police officers.”

You’re part of the canine unit.

“Yes, it’s part of the patrol unit. I’m responsible for answering calls, but if another agency needs a dog, I go.”

Who trains the dogs?

“We do it all. The dog I have now, I’ve only had for about a month-and-a-half. I’m ... training him.”

For what are you training your dog?

“Tracking and biting. I also have to do drug work on him. We have to go to school with our dogs. I went to school for five weeks with my first dog; he died recently.”

Are they always German shepherds?

“No, the one I have right now, Rocky, is a Dutch shepherd. The dog that died, Exel, was a Belgian malinois.”

How old are the dogs when you start training?

“You can start training them when they are six or eight weeks old. The philosophy of waiting until they are a year of two old is nonsense.”

Do these dogs go for the throat?

“No, we teach them to go for the arm or leg — bite and hold.”

Confrontations?

“Rocky got his first apprehension when he was two weeks into the street. We tracked down a guy. Exel had 10 apprehensions.”

My Grandpa Vito used to hunt fox with bloodhounds.

“Bloodhounds can really smell; they do amazing things. We don’t have any bloodhounds right now, but we had a guy who left the department to do some security stuff in Iraq. He’s back now and working for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District — the South Shore. He works with a bomb dog.

“I believe he was involved when those guys escaped from Mississippi several years back. They shot at one of our guys on (Interstate) 65. Bloodhounds were used during that manhunt.”

How much do the dogs cost?

“Rocky didn’t cost the Sheriff’s Department anything. We had a fundraiser, so we didn’t have to use tax dollars. Exel was $15,000. That included the cost of me going to school with him.”

Other ways of raising money for the canine unit?

“We’re always selling sweatshirts and T-shirts for the Lake County Canine Association, which started in ’97. The focus is to offset the cost to the Sheriff’s Department as far as maintaining the dogs.

“Right now, there are budget restraints, but we still have to pay for vet bills. We have a guy whose dog recently retired. Instead of him having to pay for vet bills out of his own pocket, the canine association maintains his vet bills for him.”

Almost sounds like a canine pension.

“That dog did service for the Sheriff’s Department and the county; we feel the least we can do is take care of the animal in retirement. Once a dog retires, it stays with the handler; we don’t get rid of them.”

The department is getting new vehicles.

“Yes, with the Ford Crown Victorias no longer being made, we’re switching to Dodge Chargers, which means we have to buy new kennels and equipment to go with it. Outfitting one squad car is like $3,000.

“Luckily, the sheriff is paying for the new (transport) kennels for the cars, but there are still more options and accessories that we need. One of them is called a ‘Hot Dog System.’ If it gets too hot in the car, it will send a page to our cell phone and it automatically will roll down the windows and kick on the fan; that way, the dog doesn’t die in the heat. Those things run about $700 each.”

How many dogs in the unit?

“We have two German shepherds, three Dutch shepherds and one Belgian malinois. Four of them will be narcotics dogs; one is just a straight patrol dog, and one does bomb work.”

How many officers make up the canine unit?

“Right now, we have six, but Sheriff (John) Buncich wants to increase it to eight.”

He has appeared in this column.

“The sheriff has done good things for us; he’s taken care of us.”

I also interviewed Dan Murchek, the assistant chief.

“Deputy Chief Murchek lost his dog in the line of duty back in the ’90s.”

Officer Parker, I remember that. It was a high-speed chase where the assailant got out of his vehicle and tried to flee on foot. He also began firing his weapon. Murchek released his partner, and the guy shot the dog at close range.

Dan told me Ajax saved his life.

***

Buying a T-shirt from a guy like Doug Parker seems like a good cause to me. I’m sure Rocky would appreciate it.

It’s a dog’s life.



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