Staff Writer

PAULDING – There is about to be a new, very good boy in black at the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office.

Veteran—or Vet as his handler Deputy Nick Cunningham calls him—is a 10-month-old Czech German Shepherd, who is just months away from becoming the county’s newest K-9 officer. Until then, Cunningham and Vet are hard at work in Fort Wayne, training with the master trainer at the Allen County Sheriff’s Department.

Veteran, named after organizations who donated the money for his purchase, made his debut to the public just a few weeks ago, before making appearances at the Flat Rock Creek Festival, where Cunningham says he delighted kids and adults alike. From loud children to the ringing of firearms, Cunningham said there is nothing Vet fears.

“It’s nice to have a partner,” Cunningham said. “I know he’s got my back, and I’ve got his back.”

Cunningham said the young pup’s favorite game is “two ball,” a game just like fetch, but with one ball being thrown, just as the other ball is returned. Cunningham says Vet loves the game so much he chooses tennis balls over treats every time.

The opportunity to work with Vet is a dream come true for Cunningham, who was beaming during the entire conversation he and Vet had with The Paulding Progress about their work. It is no wonder why, either. Cunningham has a six-year-old St. Bernard named Sassy and a two-year-old German Shepard named Ranger at home. It is clear he’s happy to grow his fur family at the department and home.

Cunningham said the wait after filing their funding request was unbearable. Cunningham has been on the force for over five years where he spent much of it working with K-9 officers and their handlers, like Caleb Miller and his German Shepard Cooper.

“Seeing them and their bond,” Cunningham said, “That is something I knew I wanted to be a part of.”

Cunningham and Sheriff Jason Landers went to Lima to meet the potential dogs. It was only after seeing one other German Shepard that Cunningham knew the all-black, shimmering dog was the one for him.

However, it is not all fun and games for the two. Vet has a job. Cunnningham says because of this, he keeps Vet separate from his other two dogs and has stricter boundaries and higher expectations for Vet.

“The most challenging part for me is not to get frustrated,” Cunningham said. “He’s 10 months. He’s never done this. I’ve never done this. That’s the hardest thing, I’ve got to keep a level head with me.”

Now, Vet and Cunningham’s training focuses on simple obedience, sniffing out drugs and tracking down missing persons or runaway inmates. Their days start at 6 a.m. at Cunningham’s home in Payne, before driving to Fort Wayne to continue their training.

“We don’t even scratch the surface when they’re done at the academy,” Cunningham said. “What they can learn is mind blowing.”