K-9 Judge retires, gets to be ‘a regular dog’


Judge sat on his hind legs Monday, ball in mouth, watching Sheriff Donny Lampert after hearing Lampert say his name.

Kendall and Judge

When Lampert tore open a bag of dog treats, the 8-year-old black Labrador got excited, and jumped in the air until his direct boss, Deputy Brad Kendall made him sit down.

The treats were for a job well done, Lampert explained to the Dubois County Commissioners. Lampert requested the commissioners approve Judge’s retirement, and they did, turning him over to Kendall and his family, whom Judge will continue living with in Jasper.

“He is going to enjoy just being a dog,” Kendall said. “He won’t be in a car for 12 hours. He’ll get to roam and eat snacks. As a narcotics dog, he doesn’t get to eat human food.”

So the treat Judge got from Lampert was really exciting for the dog. He ate the treat and tried to get in the bag, until Kendall made him calm down enough to receive his other honor — an award from the county for his six years of service.

As the department’s K-9, Judge did what are called open-air sniffs. “He would sniff a car, a building, an apartment and indicate if there are narcotics present,” Kendall said. “That has lead to opening a new investigation. An open-air sniff has been the first step of probable cause to start a bigger investigation.”

Kendall said Judge has been used in open-air sniffs hundreds of times in the six years he has served with the department. Although every activity, including Judge’s training is logged in department files, that information has not been compiled into one report. But Kendall and Lampert agreed that Judge’s work has been instrumental in numerous drug cases, cases that would not have happened if the dog wasn’t there.

“If there was not a canine available,” Kendall said, “if someone is suspected of criminal activity, we’d have to let that suspect go because we didn’t have probable cause.

Kendall has been with the sheriff’s department since 2000, working as a jailer until he was sworn in as a deputy in October 2007. He had to take an eight-week class in Michigan to be trained in handling a narcotics dog, which he did in 2013. He got Judge the last week of his class, and “from that day forward, he’s been with me,” Kendall said.

Judge was originally going to be trained to be a handicap assist dog. “But he was too hyper,” Kendall said. “That’s when he was trained to be a narcotics dog.”

A few years ago, Judge had a tumor in his right hind hip area. That was removed, but in the last six months, Kendall started noticing that Judge has been trying to keep weight off his right hind leg, the same area where the tumor-affected hip is located. “His days of being sore is starting to be more frequent,” Kendall said.

“I thought it was time for him to be a dog, instead of being a tool and instrument for the police department,” the deputy added. “It’s wear and tear for him to jump in and out of a vehicle.”

Judge was one of four narcotics dogs in Dubois County — Karma, a German shepherd, is with the sheriff’s department; Ester, also a German shepherd, is with the Huntingburg Police Department and Ares, a Malinois, is with the Jasper Police Department. All the funds for the care of the K-9 officers come from donations from the community.

“That is what funds the dogs,” Kendall explained. “The food, shelter, vaccinations, vet bills, everything is 100 percent financed by donations. That’s how we got it started, and that’s how it has continued.”

Despite not being a K-9 officer anymore, Judge will likely retain his skills.

Judge has pretty much been the Kendalls’ family dog, and was treated as such. He’s the Kendalls’ only pet, and gets along well with everyone in the family. The only difference now is that he won’t have to go to work. Although it will be different not going to work with Judge, Kendall said it will be great having him at home and being “a regular dog.”

“He’s a nut case, But I love him,” Kendall said. “Even if he is not a narcotics dog, he’ll never forget how to do that. He’ll always be trained to sniff.”

Not allowing Judge to have human food was a part of the job. “I wanted to keep his drive up,” Kendall said. “His treat was the tennis ball. He knew that if he did a good job, he would get his tennis ball.”

So for Judge to consistently have the tennis ball on Monday during his retirement recognition was special for the dog. And he got another treat later that day.

“He got a New York strip for the first time,” Kendall said. “He devoured it.”

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