Geauga County K-9 officer Spirit retires, heads home with partner

Oct. 31—After 11 years of dedicated service to the Geauga County Sheriff's Office and helping to keep citizens safe, K-9 officer Spirit is off to retirement.

The full-bred German shepherd will enjoy his post-law enforcement life with a familiar face.

K-9 Spirit was retired Oct. 3 and was bought for $1 from the Geauga County commissioners by his handler, Sgt. Jacob Smith.

The pair have been partners since 2012.

During his service to the Sheriff's Office, Spirit assisted with narcotics detection, suspect apprehension, handler protection, article search, suspect search and tracking.

"I am currently in training with his replacement, K-9 Rookie, who is a full-bred Labrador retriever from Columbia. He is currently being trained in explosives and tracking," Smith said. "Spirit and I have been together for almost 12 full years as he will be 13 next March.

"A K-9 handler spends the majority of their time with their dog right next to them," he added. "Having Spirit at home now is definitely an enjoyable end to this successful and very long career."

"Rookie and he have become friends and are learning to share their toys," Smith said. "K-9 handlers must put in a large amount of work and dedication to be successful. It also takes a lot of support and assistance from the training units.

"Being a K-9 handler has been a great and rewarding experience for our office and myself," he added. "It is one of the best positions in law enforcement."

Smith began his law enforcement career at a university police department in 2006. In 2007, he was hired by the Geauga County Sheriff's Office as a part-time patrol deputy and transferred to full-time shortly after.

"I had an interest in law enforcement from when I was very young as my father was a (Geauga County) chief deputy and then (Chester Township) chief of police," Smith said. "I spent a lot of time learning about this profession from him and never turned back."

"My father had assisted in starting the K-9 unit at the Sheriff's Office and he continued that on to his police department," Smith added. "I always had an interest in that part of the field. When I began my career with Geauga County, I spent a lot of time learning about handling a K-9 from Deputy Jim Dhayer and Deputy Brian Sebor who were handlers at the time.

"I decided that becoming a K-9 handler was what I wanted to pursue."

The 41-year-old Smith, who lives in Munson Township, was selected as a K-9 handler in 2012. In April of that year, he was assigned to K-9 Spirit and began a six-week training program at Excel K-9 in Hiram.

Smith and Spirit were certified and began to patrol the night shift. Spirit was certified in narcotics detection, tracking, evidence recovery, handler protection and criminal apprehension.

Smith said he has several vivid memories of Spirit in the line of duty and working with community.

"We performed numerous narcotics searches and criminal/missing person tracks," Smith said. "One of Spirit's last calls was a track of a suicidal male. He led us deep into the woods and into a marshy area where we located the (man) hiding in brush.

"We also completed countless public demonstrations," Smith added. "During the demonstrations we not only educated the public on the K-9 unit, but also the responsibilities of the sheriff's office. Spirit is very friendly and spent the majority of his career receiving pets and treats."