SIDNEY — Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Bleigh has a new partner.
K-9 Colt, 12, who has been a deputy for 10 years and Bleigh’s partner, retired on Feb. 19. When Bleigh reported for duty on Feb. 26, he was joined by K-9 Bandit, 3.
Colt was honored Wednesday, March 20, at a retirement party attended by the Shelby County Commissioners, deputies, family, friends and other K-8 officers. Bandit was also introduced as the newest deputy.
While Colt is no longer on duty, he is now the Bleigh’s family dog. Bleigh purchased Colt from the county for $1. Bandit also resides at the Bleigh home with Colt, family dog, Maggie, and a cat.
“We couldn’t operate our office without the K-9 officers,” said Sheriff John Lenhart. “The city police can use a saturation patrol. We can’t do that. The K-9s are the deputies backup.
“The K-9 officers live in the home with the deputy and become just like a kid in the family,” he said.
Lenhart said the partnership with all offices who have K-9s is a benefit to all departments involved.
“With our geographic location … Hickory Hills and the interstate … the drug dog or search dog are used and we appreciate their support.”
Bleigh told the crowd that he “got used to the doggy noises in the car” while they were on duty.
“I spend more time with him (Colt) thank I did with my family. I’ll miss his whining a little but but I’m gaining the hearing in my right ear back.”
Bleigh’s wife, Lori, has enjoyed the addition of Colt to their family.
“Colt’s my baby,” said Lori. “He’s a real home dog and is part of our family. He’s also Frank’s shadow. He always right there with him.”
Lori said the addition of Bandit to the household to a little getting used to.
“Frank has to give Bandit a lot of attention so they can develop a bond,” she said. “So we’re giving extra attention to Colt.”
On the first day of Colt’s retirement, he watched “Dad” leave the house without him, said Lori.
“He stared at Frank like he was wondering if ‘Dad’ was coming back for him,” she said. “It was a little sad for all of us. Some tears were shed.”
When Frank and Bandit arrive home after their shift, Bandit greets Colt with “puppy kisses” said Lori.
“He’s a very loving dog,” said Lori. “It’s taken him (Bandit) a little bit to become part of the ‘pack.’ Our dog, Maggie, lifted her head when Bandit arrived with a look that said ‘Oh, we have another one.’”
Shelby County Commissioners Bob Guillozet and Tony Bornhorst said the K-9s are a benefit to the department. There’s been a K-9 unit at the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work they can do,” said Guillozet. “If there’s drugs in a car, they can sniff around to try to detect them.”
Bornhorst said the K-9s visit 4-H Club meetings, schools and other places in the county so the residents can get to know them.
“The youngsters can relate to the deputy as a human being (since he has a dog),” said Bornhorst. “The K-9s are also good icebreakers with the community.”
Frank said he enjoys being a K-9 handler for the Sheriff’s Office.
“Bandit is raring to go at mach 2 and the other one (Colt) figures he’ll get to it when he wants to.”
Frank said he’s always had an interest in the K-9s with the department. When a deputy left the position as a K-9 handler, he was asked to join the group.
And the best part of being a K-9 handler?
“It’s all the stuff we get to be involved with,” said Frank. “We get to work with the detectives, with SWAT and take him to schools.”
Reach the writer at 927-538-4822.