A new employee will soon be starting at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and for Deputy Bob Peper, the news is bittersweet.

Cain, the newest law dog to join the force, will be taking over for Peper’s dog, Ozzy, who has to retire early because of some health issues. Both police dogs are a Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix and are dual purpose dogs, trained in handler protection, criminal apprehension, building and area searches, evidence recovery, tracking and narcotics detection.

Peper and Ozzy have been working together since January 2015.

“We thought Ozzy would work a little longer, but with some health issues, we didn’t want him or any deputies being compromised, so the decision was made for him to retire,” Peper said.

Ozzy will continue working until this spring, probably late May, and then will officially retire and become a house pet for Peper and his family, who includes his wife and two children.

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Cain, who is currently in training, will be certified as a law dog by that time and can take over for Ozzy and become Peper’s new partner.

“It’s bittersweet for me,” said Peper. “Ozzy is a great dog. To see where we’ve come from until now is pretty neat. Ozzy understood the game and he was very successful not only on the streets, but also at events. I’m happy he gets to retire and will be safe and happy in our home. He’s earned it.”

Peper said he is looking forward to working with Cain, who was born in Budapest, Hungary. He said Cain is on a “whole other level” and will be a great police dog.

The breeder where Cain was purchased from specifically breeds dogs for military/law enforcement. The dogs have a long bloodline of working in law enforcement and are top-notch dogs, said Peper.

Once the dogs are purchased, they are then brought to the states where they will spend many months in training before they are tested and then certified. Cain will be trained by a certified police dog trainer and then both Peper and Cain will spend about six weeks training together before he is brought on board the sheriff’s office.

Cost is huge factor

The cost to purchase a quality level police dog is significant, said Peper, who also noted that the sheriff’s office hadn’t planned on replacing a dog this year.

“We relied solely on donations,” he said, adding that he turned to the Lakes Area Law Dog Foundation for help. The nonprofit organization was formed in 2015 to help provide financial assistance for training, National K-9 Certification, seminars and equipment for trained police dogs and their handlers.

At a Jan. 5, special board meeting, Douglas County commissioners approved a donation from Lakes Area Law Dogs in the amount of $12,500 for the purchase of the new dog.

“We are very lucky to have a great community who supports this organization,” said Peper, explaining that last summer, the organization campaigned to raise funds, holding a virtual run/walk as one of its events.

Numerous community members and business owners stepped up to the plate with donations – some as large as $5,000, said Peper.

“It was really humbling,” he said. “We went from wondering how we were going to get the money to ‘Holy cow, we have the money we need.’ We are so thankful to everyone who donated to the organization and to the organization for being able to purchase Cain.”

Peper again stressed how awesome the community is with how supportive they are of the K-9 program in Douglas County, noting that the sheriff’s office has had trained police dogs since 1979.