Veteran police dog calls it quits

Posted: February 24, 2010 - 12:17am

By Michael Atkins

Binky, a supreme sniffer that started as one of the first-ever Savannah-Chatham police dogs, has retired after eight years of service.

The Belgian Malinois, aged nearly 12 years, has notched more than 330 arrests since 2001 - the year metro police established its K-9 unit. He was also called out for 210 tracks and performed 172 searches for evidence, 820 for narcotics and 207 through buildings.

"What we call work is play for them," police Cpl. Amanda McGruder, Binky's handler, said, adding that the pooch has eased seamlessly into retirement. "All our dogs go home with us, and you really get attached to them.

"He's the king of the hill."

Sgt. Greg Ernst, who supervises the K-9 unit, recounted an instance in Bryan County where Binky, catching a scent from air bubbles, dove into a swamp to drag out a burglary suspect.

"That's a prime example of Binky's ability to find people - anything that involved searching for suspects, Binky was outstanding," Ernst said. "And he still has an incredible drive to do his job; he just doesn't have the endurance. It's just like when all of us get old, the heart's willing but the body just can't do it."

On Tuesday, meanwhile, Binky's suitable replacement was introduced at the police training grounds off Dean Forest Road.

Djieno - pronounced "Geno" - a dog of Binky's breed and Dutch descent, arrived in Savannah on Saturday and has turned plenty of heads during his nascent career.

"I like him - he's got a good, loving temperament," Ernst said. "We can take him anywhere, into a school for demos, search for suspects in crowded areas. He already appears to be a real strong tracker."

Such was evident during Tuesday's exercise, as Djieno darted directly to one of six wooden boxes, where Officer Will Fernandez was hiding. The dog belted out a bark before clamping his jaws on Fernandez's arm, protected by a burlap sleeve.

"Watch out Savannah," McGruder, smiling, said afterward. "Djieno's in town."

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