Polk County Sheriff Danny Morrison recently welcomed a new member to his staff.
And while she won’t carry a badge or a gun, she’s just as much a part of the team as anyone else.
Brenna, a 1-year-old German shepherd trained in narcotics detection and search and rescue, was welcomed into the fold at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office last month.
In a short amount of time, she and her handler, Deputy Garrett Anderson, have already made a big impact.
Anderson said Brenna’s found drugs on around 10 traffic stops and helped in one search.
“That was our main goal, to have a dog that can track somebody who either goes missing or a child who wanders off, that she can help us quickly recover,” Morrison said. “Before that, we had to depend on outside agencies. We were at the mercy of their availability.”
Morrison said he’s hoped to add a K-9 to his staff since he took office in 2017.
“One of my goals was to be able to have a K-9,” Morrison said.
Anderson, who said he’s been in law enforcement for around four years and with Polk County for a year and a half, shares Morrison’s passion for the project.
He said it’s always been his dream to work alongside a K-9.
“When I first joined law enforcement, this was one of the main things I wanted to do — to be a dog handler,” Anderson said.
In fact, just a month in, he said the team already has a daily routine.
Anderson said before their typical 10 a.m. shift begins, he feeds Brenna at home and lets her out.
“When my uniform is on, she knows it’s time to go to work,” he said. “And then when her vest goes on, she definitely knows it’s time to go to work.”
Anderson’s constant companion, Brenna rides in the backseat of his patrol car.
“She lays right down,” he said. “She gets excited there if I get on a traffic stop or if something’s going on.”
Morrison said “she wants to work.”
“She’s got that drive,” he said.
“She’s ready to rock and roll,” Anderson added with a smile.
While she enjoys working, Anderson said he does add in breaks and play time during the day.
“She’s full of energy,” he said.
Morrison said on top of typical daily duties, the pair will also make appearances at local events and area schools.
“She’s friendly and good demeanored,” he said. “She’s not a bite dog. We want a dog that will be approachable and not too aggressive.”
While Anderson and Brenna seem to have down a comfortable routine, Morrison is quick to point out working with a K-9 is no walk in the park. In fact, there’s a lot of effort involved.
“She keeps me busy,” Anderson said.
The pair completed an initial two-week joint training in Stafford, Morrison said.
“They trained the dog, then him as the handler,” he said. “They are both certified.”
But Morrison said the hard work doesn’t stop there.
“It’s demanding,” he said. “He goes to a minimum of 16 hours a month on training. Not to mention, he takes care of the dog. The dog’s with him at home.”
On top of weekly training, Anderson said he likes to take Brenna on lengthy treks two to three times a month.
Morrison said Anderson’s responsible for Brenna’s health and well-being, including feeding and housing her, as well as taking her to veterinarian appointments.
Anderson also has to file extra reports and maintain records any time Brenna’s put to work, Morrison added.
Not only is maintaining a K-9 a lot of work, it can also be expensive.
Morrison said the department purchased Brenna for around $2,500, and then paid training costs.
“The dog was actually purchased by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office through the help of businesses in Polk County,” he said. “We sold ads on our sheriff’s office calendar, and we were able to take that money and put it toward the purchase of the dog.”
However, Morrison said the department’s fundraising needs don’t stop there.
“We continually need to raise more funds to help maintain the dog, the equipment and stuff it needs,” he said.
Morrison said weekly medications to maintain Brenna’s health cost money, as well as her training and equipment needed to keep her safe.
“We would like to be able to provide a permanent cage in the vehicle for the dog — a better way for it to ride and to deploy the dog when he needs it quickly,” Morrison said.
He said he’d also like to add safety features to Anderson’s patrol vehicle.
“If the motor dies and the car gets too hot, the K-9 would be able to open the doors automatically,” Morrison said. “There’s some stuff we definitely still need to do and add.”
Anderson said he was able to find an online grant to help pay for one necessary cost — a $1,000 ballistic and stab-proof vest for Brenna.
He said the organization providing the grant was “able to provide that for no cost, which has helped out tremendously.”
Morrison said the sheriff’s office has set up an official “Friends of Polk County K-9” fund.
“If anybody would like to donate, it goes through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, and they can make that donation at Oak Star Bank,” Morrison said.
Eventually, Morrison said he’d like to add another K-9 to his staff.
“Right now, with only having one, (Anderson’s) subject to being called out,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s really demanding on one deputy, knowing he’s going to throw on a uniform at any time he’s called out.”
Despite criteria deputies must meet before becoming a K-9 handler — like meeting physical standards and having a good overall job performance — Morrison said many of his team have expressed interest in following in Anderson’s footsteps.
That could be, in part, because Brenna’s already made such an impact.
“Everybody loves her,” Anderson said. “She’s just like everybody else.”