Jeanne Sager | Democrat
DEPUTY ERIC BRIEHOF of Jeffersonville with his new K-9 partner, “RC.”
Sheriff's Department Utilizes K-9 Partner
By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO August 3, 2007 Bad guys beware: the newest addition to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s patrol unit has a real nose for the job.
For the first time in almost two decades, the Sheriff’s office has a K-9 unit driving the roads of Sullivan County.
Sheriff Michael Schiff, one-time canine handler for the New York State Police, secured a grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to bring back a program ended in 1988.
Deputy Eric Briehof, a three-year member of the force, hit the road with his four-legged partner last month.
In just four weeks on the job, they’ve handled 10 K-9-specific calls, Briehof said, from the first day when they arrested three suspected crooks at a burglary in progress.
The Jeffersonville resident has been in law enforcement for four years, and he’s wanted the K-9 spot from the moment he put on a uniform.
When Schiff announced a new opportunity within the department, Briehof applied and went through the interview process.
“There was a lot of interest,” Schiff said. “But Eric came out on top as the best all-around candidate.”
The department sent Briehof to an intensive training course in Orange County with his new partner, a German Shepherd brought in fresh from a breeder in the Czech Republic.
The two met just days before their classes began Briehof was allowed to stop in when the company that vets police dogs checked out the pups sent over from Europe.
Along with RC named as police force tradition dictates after a fallen officer (Rob Chemerys died in the early 1980s) Briehof spent four months learning a new kind of police work.
RC, now 17 months, spends almost 24 hours a day with his master.
He lives in the Briehof home with the deputy, his wife and four children.
The family was part of the interview process for the Sheriff’s new dog handler.
“They needed to be ready to take on the responsibility of having that dog live with them,” Schiff explained.
“Now, if you want to take that dog away from that family, you’d have to come armed,” he added with a laugh. “They love that dog.”
“They lay on top of him, they pull his ears, they love him,” Briehof said of his kids.
RC plays with the Briehofs’ other dog and puts up with the family cat his calm, easy demeanor was part of the reason he was hooked with a deputy who has a family.
But on the street, he’s all police dog.
“When it’s time to go to work, he’s scratching at the door,” Briehof noted. “He’s chomping at the bit to get out there; he knows it’s time to go to work.
“When he sees me put on my uniform, he runs straight to the door.”
The duo will have to go back for more training this fall to have RC certified as a narcotics dog, but he’s already well prepared to track down criminals.
Until he came onboard, the Sheriff’s Office depended on the help of other agencies to provide tracking and apprehension services.
That meant calling on the State Police, Village of Monticello or Town of Fallsburg sometimes costing precious time because the other officers were otherwise engaged.
Now Briehof works a specific shift, but he’s on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If a call comes in for RC, the two hop in the Sheriff’s Office new Blazer, outfitted specifically for a K-9 unit and paid for by the $50,000 grant that has covered all but Briehof’s salary a sum already paid by the department.
“The way the county’s going, we could easily use three more,” Briehof admitted.
“I’d say there were easily 50 calls so far this year where we could have used him.”
That’s not including the 10 calls since the K-9 team graduated from the academy in June.
Briehof spends 10 to 15 minutes a day with RC just going over their basic commands to keep him on the ball.
“I strive to make sure the Sheriff’s office has a good working dog,” he noted.
But the rest of the time, Briehof said it’s nice to have someone along for the ride.
“You couldn’t ask for a better partner,” he said with a grin. “Although sometimes I can’t get rid of him I get up to go to the bathroom at 2 o’clock in the morning and he’s right behind me!”
On the road, that’s not a problem.
Although he’ll roll around on the floor with the Briehof children, he’s trained to protect his handler.
“If you were to shove me or push me, he’s going to protect me,” Briehof said. “I have immediate back-up.”
The Briehof and RC team has already proved itself as an asset to the county, Schiff said.
“The first one out is going to blaze the trail,” he noted.
As the Sheriff’s office looks into future grant opportunities to expand the K-9 program, Schiff said there’s a shining example already patrolling the streets of just what the dogs can do for the safety of Sullivan County.