MILTON, Ga. - Officer Christopher Ward, Milton's newest K-9 officer, introduced his new K-9 partner, Branco, to the Citizens' Police Academy Oct. 16.
The purebred, all-black German shepherd will replace the previous K-9 DaSilva, who retired in December 2012.
Branco is ready to begin his job but won't start for a few more weeks.
“He's trained,” Ward said. “But he is waiting on me.”
The dog was born on May 27, 2012 in Holland, where he spent several months under evaluation before beginning training.
“A dog is either a working dog or not,” Ward said. “Branco is definitely a working dog, and he's excited to get started.”
Ward and the 90-pound dog spend about 12 hours a day in an intense program to bring Ward up to speed.
“Branco is a full-service patrol dog,” Ward said. “So I've got a lot to learn.”
He said the dog is trained in apprehension, narcotics detection and tracking.
Ward said that during work hours, Branco would be all work, but once he's home, he will be free to play with Ward's other dogs.
If Branco stays healthy, he will likely be a part of the department until he's about 7 or 8 years old.
“Patrol dogs need to be 100 percent,” Ward said. “As they age, the work becomes harder on them and that's not beneficial to the dog or the department.”
Lt. Travis Parker said he feels Ward is the perfect patrolman for the K-9 division.
“To be a K-9 handler requires a special type of person,” Parker said. “A person who is dedicated and committed, and Chris is that man.”
Community Outreach Officer Ara Baronian agreed.
“Chris approached us about being the new K-9 handler,” he said. “He wanted this and it really wasn't a question for any of us.”
Both Ward and Baronian worked to raise money for the program, organizing the department's first annual golf tournament held at the Echelon Golf Club in Alpharetta on May 1.
The tournament raised about $30,000.
“Officer Ward really wanted this program to continue,” Parker said. “And his efforts, along with the efforts of Officer Baronian were successful.”
Milton resident Claudine Wilkins is working to raise money to purchase Branco a bulletproof vest through Project Paws Alive, an organization that provides protective vests to law enforcement and military K-9s nationwide.
“He's an officer just like his partner,” she said. “And he should have the same protection.”
Wilkins said one resident has already committed $250 to the purchase.
“We're working on a plan of action to move forward with the fundraiser at this time,” she said.
“Branco's safety is as important as mine,” Ward said. “And it would be great to have protective gear for him.”
Branco will be formally introduced to the department once Ward has completed training.
For more information on how to donate for the purchase of Branco's vest, contact Wilkins and Associates at Miltonk9funds@gmail.com.