Prospective K-9 handlers have to worry about more than their own performance and grades — their canine partners also have to pass the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services K-9 unit course.
So it was a setback for Deputy 1st Class Michael Thompson when his first partner, a Belgian malinois, had to drop out.
“It was a blow to me because I fell in love with that other dog,” said Thompson, one of two Washington County sheriff’s deputies to graduate Wednesday at the Randolph Millholland National Guard Armory near the correctional institutions on Roxbury Road.
Thompson credited Capt. Pete Lazich of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. James Grimm, the supervisor of the sheriff’s K-9 unit, with quickly getting him a new partner, a German shepherd named Bear.
“I graduated today. He’ll graduate Monday,” Thompson said of Bear, who has to be certified next week.
Bear seemed happy as he chewed a rubber toy. But he wasn’t always so good-natured, Thompson said.
It took a lot of Vienna sausages and reading nursery rhymes to both his daughter and Bear to build their bond over a period of weeks.