Nevada County authorities introduce newest addition to K9 officer unit | TheUnion.com

Nevada County authorities introduce newest addition to K9 officer unit

Lorraine Jewett
Special to the Union

There wasn't a dry hand in the house.

After three solid hours of tug-of-war, Miro had slobbered his way to victory against all comers who played with Nevada County's newest K9 officer.

"He's the best partner I've ever had," said state parks ranger Martin Gilbertson. "Miro never argues about the radio station, what to have for lunch, or complains about my singing.

"Plus, he's always got my back."

Gilbertson and Miro just completed their first week on the job at South Yuba River State Park, which includes a 20-mile section of the South Yuba River canyon. The pair will also patrol Empire Mine and Malakoff Diggins State Parks.

The sable-colored German Shepherd was introduced Wednesday night to two dozen members and friends of the Rüdiger Foundation, Nevada County's nonprofit that supports K9 law enforcement officers.

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Rüdiger Foundation President Tina Vernon said Miro will be a valuable asset to Nevada County public safety, especially in the South Yuba River canyon with its granite walls and steep topography.

"With the lack of cell service in the canyon, rugged terrain, and the fact park officers often patrol alone, a canine officer is imperative," said Vernon. "Plus, dogs have heightened senses we humans don't, and those will also be valuable in that environment."

Miro, who turns four-years-old at the end of the month, was born in the Czech Republic and was trained by handlers speaking the Czech language. Gilbertson and Miro first teamed up in March 2016, shortly after Miro was imported to the U.S. Learning to issue commands in Czech presented a short learning curve for 51-year-old Gilbertson, who boasts 19 years in law enforcement and 12 years with state parks.

When he selected Miro as his partner from among several potential K9 officers, Gilbertson had to make what seemed like a snap judgment. He knows he made the right decision.

"We only had 10 minutes to work with each dog," recalled Gilbertson, "and test obedience, bite work, and take a quick walk. What caught my eye was how attentive Miro was. During the suspect arrest phase, he was very intent and focused. He never wanted to give up."

For the past three years, Gilbertson and Miro have been assigned to the state parks' Angeles District. Then came the dream opportunity to transfer here, which the ranger had long hoped would become a reality. They were greeted with seasonal snow.

"We traded the beaches for the mountains, sand for snow," laughed Gilbertson. "I keep joking that Miro must think this is the funniest-looking beach sand he's ever seen."

The pair's first priority is to become familiar with their patrol area. Miro is trained in searching, tracking and detecting narcotics. His primary duty is protection.

"As soon as a suspect hears that dog start barking, you get a change of attitude," said Gilbertson. "I'm amazed how many people don't read the side of the truck that says 'K9 Unit — Stay Back.' I can be at a campground and ask someone to do something such as move a vehicle, and they give a little attitude. Then they hear the dog and comply quickly."

Miro once had to prove, despite the old adage, that his bite is worse than his bark. A man driving 60 mph in a parking lot at a Southern California state park hit a pedestrian, causing serious injuries that nearly killed the victim. The suspect fled, jumped off a 10-foot cliff, and ran into the ocean.

"I couldn't deploy Miro at the top of the cliff because as intent as he was, he would have jumped off, too," said Gilbertson. "I sent Miro after the suspect down on the beach. The guy eventually came out of the water, but still resisted arrest. Let's just say with Miro's 'attention,' the suspect couldn't go anywhere until we cuffed him."

Miro is the third K9 officer in Nevada County. The Rüdiger Foundation already supports canines Rüdiger and Kano, stationed at the Grass Valley Police Department and deployed throughout the county. The foundation purchased both dogs and a vehicle, and continues to fund training and special equipment.

The foundation will now pay to augment Miro's additional training and purchase necessary gear. Some items Miro needs are a bullet-resistant vest with attached clips for helicopter evacuation, a so-called "bite suit" used in suspect apprehension training, and a special kennel.

The cost of those items is about $10,000.

"It's important to note that the Rüdiger Foundation pays for and provides continuing support for dogs that this community could otherwise not afford," said Joey Jordan, the foundation's founder who hosted Wednesday's meet-and-greet. "We're going to provide what ranger Gilbertson and Miro need to help keep safe our public safety officers, park visitors and all of Nevada County."

Gilbertson said he's been overjoyed and overwhelmed by the reception he and Miro have received in their short time in Nevada County.

"I've been really amazed at the support," said Gilbertson. "So many people have reached out, including the Rüdiger Foundation. Miro and I had been on patrol for three years down south and he didn't have a vest. I fought with my old district over things like that, and without even asking, people here are offering."

Near the end of Wednesday's reception and yet another tug-of-war battle, one guest joked, "Miro is going to be too tired to work tomorrow!"

Gilbertson retorted, "No, he's going to wear out all of you!"

Indeed, Gilbertson noted that, at the end of night, Miro was still eager to play.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer and dog lover who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

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