ROBINSON, Ill. (WTHI) - A new officer is patrolling the streets in Robinson, Illinois but this one has four legs.
K-9 Dex and his handler Officer Nathaniel Nicklaus completed their first shift Wednesday night. The duo recently completed several weeks of rigorous training. Now, they're putting what they've learn to good use getting the bad guys.
Dex is a year old Belgian Malinois. He is the only dog currently on staff with the Robinson Police Department. He follows in the paw steps of Shep, Rex and Enzo.
Officer Nicklaus is in his third year with the department. This is his first time working as a K-9 handler.
The team completed six weeks of grueling training in Evansville, Indiana and graduated from the Academy Tuesday. They were scheduled to work their first shift Thursday but started a day early when another officer called-in sick.
Officer Nicklaus says Dex is social and friendly but you won't want to cross him on the wrong side of the saw.
"His ears will go back, his tail is rigid, he barks, he growls."
Dex is trained for "dope work" and can detect illegal drugs in cars and buildings. He can also apprehend suspects when commanded by biting and holding.
"It's a lot safer for the dog to go in and apprehend or to search for a person if we're not sure if there's somebody in there than it would be to send one or two or several officers into an unknown circumstance."
Officer Nicklaus says Dex can be utilized in other ways and by nearby agencies if needed.
"Not only does he detect narcotics and get criminals off the street that way, he's also beneficial to use in searching for missing people, children that might wander off or elderly people that might go missing. He definitely would be beneficial in a search for them as well."
If necessary Dex would protect his fellow officers and give his life. It's a scenario officer Nicklaus hopes never happens because now, Dex is more than just a partner, he's a part of the family.
"He became my best buddy. If I leave the room for five minutes, he's right on my tail to see where I'm going or if we're in the squad car out there, as soon as I get out of his sight he barks like crazy wanting to know where Dad's going."
Officer Nicklaus says if you she the team out on patrol, come say hello. Dex may even let you pet him.
According to Nicklaus, it cost $16,000 to purchase Dex and put the partners through training. The K-9 fund consists mostly of donations. If you'd like to donate, contact Robinson PD.