Meet the newest team of K-9s and managers in Manistee County

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MANISTEE COUNTY – Norse wolf Freki from Odin’s mythology joined the ranks of the Indian Public Safety Department of Ottawa’s Little River Band this month.

The 16-month-old blond German Shepherd was named after Michael Brown, a conservation officer and manager of the K-9 police. And Freki already lives up to his legendary name by showing advanced abilities in training.

Brown said Freki spent five weeks training in Sterling Heights with Chase K9 Inc. to learn how to spot smells and master the basics of drug sniffing.

“And then I went down for five weeks, so I stepped in and the dog got to know me as a master… it was a process,” Brown said, adding that Freki had been through a total of 10 weeks training. “He was getting on with it really quickly, so they went from five weeks to four weeks with the dog and gave me an extra week, so I ended up with six weeks of total training with the dog.”

Brown and Freki were certified a week earlier than expected and were able to move on to more advanced skills.

“He’s a worker. He works very well, he understands things very quickly, ”he said.

Freki is able to track odors from all surfaces, Brown said.

“The human scent holds up differently on asphalt compared to grass. We are able to do hard surface tracks and soft surface tracks, ”he said.

Freki is certified in the tracking and detection of narcotics.

But when Freki isn’t at work, he’s a dog – and a dog that’s still young and does things like sit on the couch and work for his toy ball.

“He lives with me. He’s my partner. He lives with me, my wife and my daughter-in-law, ”Brown said. “He’s young, he’s still a puppy.”

Brown said he was taking Freki to practice tracking.

“Just try to make his life fun, and working is fun,” he said. “I’m going to go out and lay a trail and usually we leave the trails in place for 20 to 30 minutes.”

The couple also do a lot of weekend hikes and socialize with people frequently.

He said he hopes he can take Freki to schools in the next school year, once he’s more socialized and trained.

Brown added that narcotics are another reason to have Freki on hand.

Brown is a longtime dog owner who has said he also enjoys helping children meet dogs in schools, camps and other community settings.

“I think it really caught the kids’ interest and taught them that not all cops are bad,” he said.

Brown has worked in the public safety department for 14 years, but said it was his first time as a K-9 manager.

“There is no real transition, a partner is a partner but that partner is not responding,” he said. “The day consists of potty breaks and walks in the woods. Being in conservation is a lot easier, you just have to bring it out, do a little work here and there with it, try to acclimate it to being around people. “

The two officially returned from training on Monday.

About two years ago, Brown pitched the idea to Director of Public Safety Robert Medacco to reassess the K-9 program and revive it.

“Before, we had two K-9s, obviously different handlers. The second dog we had that I applied for did not get the job and we had some changes (with) both dogs had retired, finances and so on we postponed getting the job. ‘another dog,’ Brown explained.

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Brown said at that time in 2019, the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office had just lost his K-9, Beno unexpectedly.

“The director felt there was a definite need for it in the county, in the community,” Brown recalled. “I told him I didn’t care if I was the handler or not, but I just wanted to jump in and try to set the schedule up for him.”

Brown then started looking for dog training supplies, he also set a full budget for the manager.

“Last year we were going to move forward and then 2020 came along so a lot of places weren’t training and a lot of money issues and stuff,” Brown said.

He noted that the Office of Indian Affairs had contacted Medacco about funding for a K-9 and that acceptance of the funds had been approved by the tribal council.

Brown said having a K-9 is also great for being able to go to school and allowing students to meet the dog.

“It shows the human side of law enforcement,” he said. “Most people don’t see us until they need us and bad things happen.”

He said Freki would also help locate lost children and the elderly.

“We have a lot of schools in the area, a lot of daycare centers, a lot of kids running away, running away from their homes or leaving their surroundings,” Brown said. “And (they) get lost and some of the elders in the community with Parkinson’s and some of the older onset diseases – they tend to get away and get lost and that way we can use the dog to help find these people. “

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Brown noted that as a conservation officer he works with other entities and also collaborates with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service and others to cover a large area.

He said the tribes had jurisdiction over 38 counties in Michigan, but he generally focuses on the counties of Manistee, Benzie, Lake and Wexford.

But Brown also has missions calling him in other areas like the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s fun, I go everywhere. I have been on Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on group patrols for the commercial fishery, ”he said. “I went to Little Bay de Noc, Big Bay de Noc to net under the ice. We are doing group patrols with the other four tribes. September is elk season so we’ll be in the Atlanta, Gaylord area.

In his role as conservation officer, Brown not only enforces hunting and fishing regulations for tribal members, but he is also there to protect resources and ensure that tribal members can exercise their treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather.

“Pretty much wherever there’s a problem we’ll go,” he said.

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