Mecosta County Sheriff’s K-9 gets new handler Sgt. Charlie Pippin

BIG RAPIDS — A police department’s K-9 unit can be a great benefit in the work it does, and the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office recently received a $1,875 grant from the Great Lakes Energy People Fund which was used to purchase equipment for its K-9 officer, Zeke.

The department recently went through a transition of handlers, and Sgt. Charlie Pippin has taken possession of Zeke from his former handler Chad Thompson and has begun training with Zeke to ease both of them into their new working relationship.  

Sheriff Brian Miller said Pippin and Zeke make a good match.

“Zeke was with Deputy Thompson, who resigned due to health reasons. and Charlie stepped up and I was really excited about it. Charlie’s a go-getter,” Miller said. “He’s pretty aggressive, pretty proactive, and somebody that I believe would benefit from having the canine along with them on stops and otherwise.” 

Pippin recently brought Zeke home to get familiar with his family and two other dogs. He said things went well. 

“He’s blended right into our family really well,” Pippin said. “I usually keep them outside. I have two other dogs as well, and they get along fine but I kind of keep them separate so he doesn’t get tired out. He’s a working dog and is a tool to use for work, but I also see him as a pet when we’re not at work. I keep him active, I can’t see just keeping a dog in a kennel all day long and only getting them out when he needs to work, so we do a lot of playing and walking.” 

Members of Great Lakes Energy support the People Fund by voluntarily rounding up their bills to the next highest dollar. The rounded-up amount is distributed to non-profit organizations and charitable activities that benefit people in communities served by the cooperative.

Teresa O’Neil, the department’s office liaison, was involved in the grant process and saw the needs Zeke had. The money from the grant will help the department build him a new dog house, one that Zeke won’t be able to tear apart when he plays. New concrete was also poured for Zeke’s new kennel, which was paid for by the grant money the department received.  

Sergeant Pippin and Zeke recently began their regular training sessions which involve practicing drills and listening commands as a pair. Zeke trains mainly with narcotic drug detection, retrieval, tracking, and crime scene work. 

Pippin said he will often open the center hatch in his patrol car so that Zeke can stick his head up into the front seat for some bonding. 

“I did a scenario where we had somebody in a room in a house and I sent (Zeke) in, and he has to locate where they’re at,” Pippin said. “We do training bi-weekly. Every other week, we go to training in different locations, and I train on my own as well. If I’m on patrol, I might stop and do a little bit of training for an hour or so with him. Or even on my off days, I’ll have my kids helping me out at home doing some either tracking or hiding items for him to be able to locate.” 

Pippin said the German Shepherd breed is well known in the police K-9 community and has been used for decades for police work. The malamute breed is also known to be a police dog breed and is known for more aggressive attack work due to its size and power. 

The department has stopped training Zeke to detect marijuana, but he still knows how to detect other narcotics. 

“There are certain limits to what you want to train a dog to do,” Pippin said. “We don’t train him for marijuana anymore, because here in Michigan it’s legal, and we don’t want him focused on that scent if there’s something else in the vehicle, it can ruin a case.

“They can be bombed dogs, but it’s typically either a drug or bomb,” he added. “You’re limited to what you can do with one dog. Just because you don’t want to confuse them.”

According to Pippin and Miller, the career span of a working canine in a department is usually between eight to nine years depending on the breed.

The Sheriff’s Department has had a K-9 unit for around 12 years and has had two other dogs work in the department outside of Zeke. 
Pippin said training has taught him a lot already and the bonding is going well. 

“I learned that I have more to learn than he does, that’s for sure about this type of work,” Pippin said. “Outside of work, he just plays with balls, he loves them. If he gets one, you need to have balls that are indestructible. He also likes to be outside, just like any dog.”

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