THUNDER BAY - When Const. Josh Berube was working his first job as a paperboy, his dog joined him on his route every day. A new four-legged partner now joins him at work but just like him, this pup has a lot more responsibilities.
“I’m grown up now and I have the opportunity to go to work everyday with a dog,” Berube said. “It’s quite the opportunity and I’m thankful to be given this position.”
Berube is the handler of Thunder Bay Police Service’s newest member, Lucek, who is part of the new K-9 unit.
The local service has not had a K-9 unit since 2013 after the Const. Joseph Prevett, the only officer in the unit, passed away during a training exercise in in 2014.
“I wish he was here for me to pat him on his back,” Berube said. “Now that I’m learning the job, you recognize both the stresses of it and the pressure.”
Berube began training with Lucek in Orillia, Ont. with the Ontario Provincial Police last July. The 18-week program was very stressful, Berube said, but there was a saying in the course to not count the days, but to make every day count.
“For me personally, I wanted the challenge with respect to the job, both physically and mentally,” Berube added. “I thought it was a unique position. But I also wanted to be able to bring another tool to policing.”
Lucek, a 20-month old Shepherd/Malinois mix from Slovakia, is trained in human scent tracking, such as locating articles discarded by people or tracking persons of interest.
He will also be trained in drug recognition soon and he already has suspect apprehension training.
“If we need assistance with arresting high risk offenders, we can utilize the K-9,” Berube said. “It is kind of an officer safety consideration when we utilize the dog in that capacity.”
Lucek still has a lot of puppy energy being so young and Berube said he has to be selective for when he wants Lucek to be in command and when he can just be a dog.
“I don’t think he would so much burn out, I think I would burn myself out,” Berube said. “It does require a lot of work at this stage. But just in all fairness to him, I want to let him be a dog to some degree.”
Prior to the arrival of Lucek, Thunder Bay Police Service would utilize K-9 units from the OPP or Nishnawbe Aski Nation Police Services. However, because these units service the entire region, they were not always readily available.
According to Berube, Lucek is a definite benefit to the Police Service and can serve as a deterrent to some offenders, as well as being a good public relations tool.
Lucek officially started the on the job on Jan. 5 and in that time, he has already been utilized several times, including searching for a suspect in the downtown north core on Monday following an alleged hit-and-run.
“It’s a good tool to have,” said Thunder Bay Police Service chief, Sylvie Hauth. “He has only been on the job for a week and a half. He’s been called out twice already yesterday. It’s exciting to have a K-9 back. It has been a number of years. The challenges have been not only financially, but finding a course and a dog to get us back into the program.”
Berube is Lucek’s only handler on the Police Service and he lives with Berube and his family. But just like people, it’s important to find a work/life balance for Lucek.
“The best part is having that companion all day, every day,” Berube said. “We are still learning a lot about each other, but it is cool to be able to go to work with your dog, go home with your dog. His mind set is similar to my own with respect to his job requirements at work. And he gets his off time and he gets to relax and play and he gets to do what he likes to do on his days off.”