by Jim Boyle
Police canine Zeus would have been a great candidate for rookie of the year honors after his first year with the Elk River Police Department three years ago.
Some of his best work came in that first year, according to his handler, Adam Bebeau, who will have been with the Elk River force seven years in January after 6.5 years with two other departments.
Zeus was the hero after a short pursuit with a suspect who crashed a vehicle and fled. He tracked the man down and made for an easy arrest.
Another score occurred after someone ran from a traffic stop.
A third case involved tracking a domestic assault suspect.
In all three episodes, Zeus didn’t have to bite.
“I swear people are more afraid of the dog than they are a police officer,” Bebeau said. “(Once they’re caught), they all say the same thing. ‘Don’t send the dog.’ ”
Life for a police canine in Elk River, however, is not the same as it would be for a police canine in Minneapolis or Miami.
Don’t be fooled.
Zeus hasn’t lost it.
Officer Bebeau and Zeus placed third in the nation for overall searches and were on the fourth-place regional team at the United States Police Canine Association National Trials in Detroit Lakes.
“It’s reassuring,” Bebeau said of the success at nationals. “It tells you that you’re doing the right training. It’s nice to know he’s performing the way we want him to be.”
Bebeau and Zeus received a cumulative score of 659.84 out of a possible 700 for a final place of 28th among the 82 participants.
This was the first time an Elk River Police K-9 team has competed in a national trial. This year’s nationals attracted competition from across the United States and Canada, including canines and handlers from New York, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and New Jersey.
K-9 teams compete in events such as obedience, suspect search, article search, agility, criminal apprehension and criminal apprehension with gunfire.
Bebeau is proud of Zeus, and the department expressed its pride with them on its Facebook page. That said, it’s the real world crime-fighting abilities that Zeus has that impresses Bebeau and his colleagues most.
“The trophies are nice,” said Elk River Police Captain Ron Nierenhausen. “But it is the apprehensions and the drug finds that you’ll remember most as a handler.”
The trail to becoming a canine officer
Bebeau knew he wanted to be a cop when he was in high school. He grew up around law enforcement folks because his father was a firefighter.
He went into the Army Reserves after high school and eventually made his way through schooling to become a police officer.
He started in Champlin and was there for two years and then moved on to Willmar. There, he helped find a canine for the department before coming to Elk River.
Bebeau, who grew up around dogs and enjoyed them, was interested in both S.W.A.T. and becoming a K-9 officer.
When an opportunity to become a canine officer arose in Elk River, he expressed interest in it and was selected.
Zeus has been a great partner, friendly
Zeus is a Belgian Malinois German shepherd mix — by design. He’s a logical, methodical and thinking dog that also has the drive and high energy associated with the Belgian breed.
Zeus is friendly with just about anyone and helps the department dispel the myth in law enforcement that canines are big and mean dogs trained only to do police work.
“He’s easy to be around,” Bebeau said of Zeus’ interactions with the general public. “That’s not to be mistaken. He is a police dog and can become very protective.”
Modern-day canines are trained to be tools and not weapons — unless they are forced to be.
Zeus is mainly a locating tool, be it people, articles or drugs. Perhaps his perfect find is drugs, Bebeau suggests. “He loves to find dope,” Bebeau said.
Zeus’ reward is a toy, so if he finds what he’s asked to he gets his toy.
Canines typically have a service life of 6 to 8 years.
“I want to get as many years out of him as I can,” Bebeau said. “He’s a great dog.”