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K-9 retires in W.Va.

July 31, 2000

K-9 retires in W.Va.



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jerro the German shepherd's 4 1/2-year career of tracking criminals, sniffing for illegal drugs and protecting police officers ended Sunday.

West Virginia State Police Sr. Trooper J.A. Laing had noticed that Jerro, his K-9 partner, was losing stamina, so he forced him to retire.

Laing said that Jerro, who is almost eight years old, is still one of the state police's top dogs. For Jerro to stop working now is similar to a star athlete's decision to stop playing before his or her skills erode, Laing said.

Laing soon will have a new K-9 partner: Rocky, a Belgian Malinois, which is a sheepherding dog with a short coat. While Jerro is about 75 pounds, Rocky is about two-thirds as heavy.

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Since pairing up with Laing in March 1996, Jerro has lived with his human partner.

That, too, will change.

Since Laing doesn't have enough room at his home for both dogs, Jerro will move in with First Sgt. Michael Mayes, the state police K-9 coordinator in Charleston, W.Va.

Laing said he will miss Jerro Zorro Blitzaerd, who was always known by just his first name. The three names were indicators of the dog's breeding and ancestry back in Holland, Laing said.

Jerro helped make 67 felony arrests and 182 misdemeanor arrests. That does not account for narcotics cases, where the figures were tracked in dollars: $172,000 worth of marijuana, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines confiscated, and $230,000 worth of property seized.

Jerro was consistently one of the leading K-9's in those areas, Laing said.

In 1998, the K-9 program was shut down by state police adninistration, but the public spoke out strongly in favor of it and it was reinstated, according to Laing.

Rocky has been in training since March. Today, Laing will be in Charleston to begin three to five weeks of working with his new partner. They will probably hit the streets as a team in early September.

Laing joined the state police in 1994. He said it was important for him to get two years on the job before working with a dog. "You want to learn how to be a good criminal investigator first," he said.

Once he was well-practiced at his job, it was easier to know when a canine could help. "I knew how hungry I was to have the services of a dog," Laing said.

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