The newest member of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit gets his commands in Dutch.
Diesel, a 15-month-old Belgian Malinois, is from Holland after all. His handler, Sgt. David Bolton, has learned the language to tell the bomb-sniffing, people-finding dog what to do.
Diesel was sworn in at a Lancaster County Courthouse ceremony Feb 5. He will replace Ronin, who retires Feb. 23 after nearly a decade of work.
Ronin, an 11-year-old German shepherd and Belgian-Malinois mix, was given his commands in German from Bolton. The dog’s accomplished career includes being on the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force from 2008 to 2016. He assisted during a three-week search in northeastern Pennsylvania for Eric Frein, who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing state trooper Cpl. Bryon Dickson.
Ronin has been on hand for hundreds of incidents in Lancaster County and beyond, including bomb checks for celebrity visits: Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Pope Francis and Barack Obama. He assisted with 1,135 warrant services with the sheriff's department.
“It's a demanding life,” Bolton said.
In retirement, Ronin will live with Bolton’s family and Diesel.
As Bolton has left for the sheriff’s office with Diesel the past few weeks, Ronin stands at the door, wanting to go to work.
The transition, said Sheriff Chris Leppler, is bittersweet.
“I hate to see Ronin go, but in the same token, I think we are getting a very good dog,” Leppler said.
The sheriff’s office K-9 unit is funded by donations.
For two weeks Diesel and Bolton trained together at K-9 Tactical, an Iowa-based training program run by a former Navy Seal. Purchasing and training Diesel cost $12,500, according to Bolton.
The K-9s are patrol and explosive dogs, Bolton said.
“They're locating tools. We locate explosives. We locate people,” he said.
During training, a ball is used as a reward.
“They don't know they're finding explosives, they think they're finding a ball,” Bolton said.
Already Diesel has proven he's better at tracking than Ronin was.
“He's good at what he does for being a 15-month-old dog,” Bolton said. “He's a machine when it comes to tracking."
But his puppy-like demeanor was still evident, as Diesel laid on a table in the courthouse Monday. He rolled over to prompt a belly scratch from his handler.
The sheriff's office has a second K-9 and handler: Edik, a 4-year-old German shepherd and Belgian-Malinois mix, and Deputy David Cole.
The unit hopes to raise $2,000 for a bullet proof vest for Diesel, Bolton said.
Leppler called the training Bolton and Diesel went through “top-end.”
“Ultimately, it's about protecting the community and responding the community's needs,” he said.
The Lancaster County Drug Task Force recently swore in a new K-9. Several Lancaster County police departments also have K-9s, including Manheim Borough, Lancaster city, state police, and Manheim and East Hempfield townships, according to the departments.