There?s a New Sheriff in Town

One to Watch: K-9 NeroBy Lilly Rockwell

There’s a new sheriff in town. Well, a new sheriff’s deputy, at least. He’s known for his shiny, thick coat of black hair and keen sense of smell. And if he gives you a pointed, fixed stare, you might be in trouble.

Meet Nero, the nearly 2-year-old Dutch shepherd, who was brought in from Austria as a gift from Dr. William Burden and Dr. Scott Ennis of Destin Plastic Surgery to join the Walton County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit in October 2009. He’ll be in charge of sniffing out drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin while on patrol.

Nero lives with Deputy Sheriff Chad Biernacki full time and became a certified drug dog after a six-week training course, joining a team of three other dogs.

“He basically works four 10-hour days with the officer,” said Lt. Michael Howell, a special operations commander with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. When Biernacki is off duty, so is Nero.

Nero, weighing 76 pounds, belongs to a breed of dogs known for being good scent detectives but without the arthritis problems that often plague German shepherds.
Nero has yet to help make a drug seizure, Howell said. But when he does smell drugs, Nero knows to sit with a “pinpoint stare at where (the scent) is coming from.”

Look for Nero at schools, football games and traffic stops, Howell said. Nero and other dogs in the unit “are very accurate,” he added, and can be used as drug-sniffing dogs well into their elderly years, as long as they receive at least 16 hours of training a month.