​From right, Sinclair Research Center executives Jeff White, vice president of finance; General Manager Derek Brocksmith; and Director of Compliance Tom O’Toole stopped by the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office Thursday to make a donation. This $15,000 will help pay for a new K-9 unit, according to deputy Alan LeBel, left, and Sheriff Clay Chism. Photo by Helen Wilbers

K-9 Officer Iro will soon have a new colleague.

Thanks to a $15,000 donation from Sinclair Research Center, the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office will add a second K-9 unit this spring.

“I’m just speechless,” Sheriff Clay Chism said Thursday. “Saying thank you (to Sinclair) isn’t nearly enough.”

Iro, handled by Deputy Alan LeBel, joined the Sheriff’s team in the latter half of 2017. Since then, the pair has been deployed some 255 times, including providing aid to other law enforcement offices in the area.

“I don’t think any of us knew just how beneficial it would be,” Chism said.

Iro and LeBel have helped seize 1.5 grams of cocaine, 4 grams of heroin, 120 grams of meth and 4,300 grams of marijuana. They’ve also helped in manhunts, conducted 14 searches of school buildings and more.

Police dogs don’t come cheap — Iro cost $8,000, plus another $5,000 in equipment and training.

“You can say he’s the most expensive dog in town, but we’ve gotten a pretty good return on investment,” Chism said.

LeBel and Iro’s shift technically runs from 6 p.m.-6 a.m., but they could be called out at any time. As the numbers make clear, they stay busy. Chism said the office has been hoping to add a second dog.

“To be honest, it’s hard to fund that out of general revenue,” he said.

That’s where Sinclair came in.

“Our president, Dr. Guy Bouchard’s dad, was a police officer in Canada, and he always wants to give back to the community,” General Manager Derek Brocksmith said. “About 90 percent of our employees are in Callaway County, so in the long run, this probably protects our employees as well.”

A previous donation from the Auxvasse-based research firm helped pay for new gun racks and sidearms for the sheriff’s office.

Chism said the sheriff’s office is currently narrowing down three internal applicants to be the new dog’s handler. He said the job takes a special kind of deputy — a handler and his or her dog are together 24/7, constantly training, bonding and practicing skills.

In April, Chism and the new handler will make the trek out to Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania to choose a dog. The kennel specializes in police-type dogs, including German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherds. The dogs are bred in eastern Europe — Iro came from the Czech Republic.

The deputy and dog will train together in Boone County until July. Training is intense: Dog and handler have a lot to learn.

LeBel said Iro knows how to sniff out drugs, track down fleeing suspects, protect officers and locate dropped items.

“If we think someone’s ditched a gun during a foot or vehicle pursuit, Iro can locate it,” LeBel said.

Aside from providing direct help with law enforcement, K-9s are great community outreach tools, LeBel and Chism said.

“Kids love him,” LeBel added.

Tractor Supply has fed Iro for free for the last year, and a Kansas City-based charity donated a dog-friendly bulletproof vest.

“We haven’t even asked for donations,” Chism said. “People have just offered.”

By Helen Wilbers | Futon Sun