AP NEWS

Columbus welcomes new K-9

May 28, 2019

The community on Monday morning got its first opportunity to meet the newest Columbus Police officer it helped bring to town.

Columbus Police Chief Charles Sherer and Officer Santiago Velasquez introduced a crowd of more than 100 people at the American Legion to Eros, CPD’s new K-9. Velasquez and Eros put on a demonstration at the end of the annual Memorial Day ceremony in which the latter showed off his sniffing and searching skills that will come in handy when on the streets for patrol.

“We’re excited,” Sherer said after the demonstration concluded. “(Eros) is doing very well with his training.”

Velasquez and Eros are currently in the midst of a Nebraska State Patrol Academy class in Grand Island, where they have bonded and learned various procedures. Eros, according to the chief, is performing at the top of his class.

Eros, an approximately 15-month-old Belgian Malinois, has already been making quite the name for himself. Just days ago, the dog managed to uncover a drug pipe located inside a vehicle in the Hy-Vee parking lot in town, which ultimately led to an arrest being made, Velasquez and Sherer noted.

The CPD dog wowed the crowd in attendance with his skills, generating applause and whistling. His arrival in Columbus has been in the works for quite some time. The city paid some of the expense involved with obtaining the dog, while the community showed its support through various fundraising endeavors.

Having spent nearly six years on the Columbus force, Velasquez said he had interest in being part of a K-9 unit even though CPD didn’t have one at the time. But once Sherer announced plans to bring the program back to Columbus, he knew he wanted to be part of it.

“It was a dream,” Velasquez said. “It was something I wanted to get involved with eventually. So once the opportunity presented itself, I said, ‘why not take it?’”

So far, so good. Velasquez said he and Eros have been getting along very well. Eros lives at his home and is proving to be a good addition to the family and police department.

“Very good. He’s a very smart dog,” Velasquez said. “He’s picked up on the training very quickly. He’s very easy to take care of and he’s a very trainable dog.”

But Velasquez is also a very important part of the K-9 unit, Sherer stressed.

“In order for the program to be successful, the key is to select the right handler. What I really like about Santiago is his commitment to the program, his commitment to the department and the community,” Sherer said. “He’s driven, he’s ambitious and he wants to make sure this program works and works well. And the only way that is going to happen is to have somebody like him at the helm of the program. So I think we made the right choice.”

As for Eros’ name, the Columbus Police didn’t have anything to do with that. In Greek mythology, Eros is considered the “God of love.” Sherer and Velasquez are good with the name, though acknowledged the K-9 was named by the vendor they got him from overseas.

Regardless of his name, two things are for certain.

“We are just excited and ready to work,” Velasquez said, with a smile.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.