The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) has added a new K-9 to the team, ensuring it has all paws on deck moving forward.

Dahgo, a 3-year-old Dutch shepherd from Slovakia, recently completed six weeks of training with his handler, Deputy Troy Gibson, at Excel K-9 Services to join current K-9s Kahless and Essac at the DCSO. Dahgo was already trained in the various scenarios of the job prior to his work with Gibson, allowing the new partners to focus on getting to know each other’s quirks throughout the duration of the training courses.

The two are certified through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and nationally through the North American Police Work Dog Association.

A dual-purpose narcotics dog, Gibson said Dahgo will serve primarily as a “locating tool” in searches and tracking scenarios, while the use of force remains a secondary use. The working careers for K-9s typically last from 6-10 years, he said.

While the dogs are typically purchased when they are younger than 3 years old, Gibson said he prefers to have one such as Dahgo that is a little more seasoned to avoid some of the immaturities that are common in younger K-9s. “I’ve got a good outlook on how he’s going to be,” Gibson told The Gazette.

Gibson, who has served as a handler for 20 of his 22 years with the DSCO, has a wealth of experience in developing strong relationships with his K-9s. Dahgo represents Gibson’s fourth K-9 partner, joining Rocky, Alex, and Cash, and he said each one has a unique personality that takes time to learn.

“The dogs are just like people,” Gibson said. “All of your coworkers, they have different personalities, and the dogs are no different than people. Some of them are friendly, some of them aren’t.”

Gibson said Dahgo is “a little bit different,” which isn’t unusual for the Dutch shepherd breed. “He’s definitely not the most social creature under the sun, but he’s very good with me,” Gibson said.

The path to becoming a deputy and, eventually, a handler wasn’t always straightforward for Gibson. It wasn’t until he took a high school guidance counselor test that Gibson began to see law enforcement as a career option. As he began to gear his future towards law enforcement, a chance encounter with a customer while working a temporary job planted the seed that eventually blossomed into a lengthy career as a handler.

“I started moving everything towards (law enforcement) during the tail end of high school and just out of high school,” he said. “Everything was me working towards being a police officer, but then I was also a pizza delivery guy, and I delivered pizzas to a K-9 vendor … At that point, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a police officer, and I’m going to be a K-9 handler. I always had German shepherds growing up, and the stuff that we’re doing with these dogs still impresses me.”

While Gibson acknowledged that collecting a paycheck for getting to play with a dog during the day is nice, of course, seeing the work with the dogs come full circle with a successful deployment is when the job becomes “priceless.”

“I spend more time with this dog than I do anyone else in this world,” Gibson said. “It’s 40 hours a week … This dog goes home with me. He lives with me. I’m the only one who handles him, I’m responsible for everything he does or doesn’t do. It’s a lifestyle change, a 24/7 gig. Riding with the dog, having him back there, it’s just like having your best friend back there. He doesn’t talk like a person, but he still communicates with me.”

Gibson added, “If I’m having a bad day or he’s having a bad day, I can take him to the park and throw the ball and have fun with him.”

Sadly, the strong bonds formed between a handler and their K-9 make for tough goodbyes, something Gibson had to endure recently. In December 2021, his most recent K-9 partner, Cash, passed away after developing cancer prior to turning 6 years old. Gibson said that in returning to work the following week after Cash’s death, it was weird riding in the K-9 cruiser and knowing “my buddy’s not back there.”

Gibson decided that the best way to move forward was to immediately submerse himself back in his work. When Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin asked him what he needed following his return, Gibson told Martin that he was ready to find another dog.

“For me, that’s the way it is,” Gibson said. “I’m not saying that’s the right thing for everybody, but it’s like, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve done for almost half of my life, and I just feel like there’s a part of me missing.”

With Gibson and Dahgo’s partnership now beginning to grow roots, Dahgo underwent his first demonstration on Wednesday. Gibson admitted he wasn’t quite sure how Dahgo would behave but added that “he did fine,” showing him that he can still go out and talk to people with Dahgo much in the same ways he was able to with his past partners.

Gibson said that being able to do demonstrations with the K-9s gives law enforcement a way to connect with people in the community who may otherwise be apprehensive about interacting with them.

“Everybody at one time or another has either owned a dog or petted a dog,” Gibson said. “It kind of bridges the gap in a community. Whether they like the police or they don’t, everybody can relate to a dog. That’s one of those things in today’s climate, if that’s their first interaction with law enforcement, it shows that we’re all the same people.”

Pictured is the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office’s newest K-9 unit, which consists of Dahgo (a Dutch shepherd) and his handler, Deputy Troy Gibson. is the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office’s newest K-9 unit, which consists of Dahgo (a Dutch shepherd) and his handler, Deputy Troy Gibson. Courtesy photo | DCSO
Dahgo, Deputy Gibson take to streets

By Dillon Davis

[email protected]

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.