The two officers were looking for contraband in a parking lot.

After a quick command, one of the officers lowered his head and sniffed around a car. At the back driver's side wheel he suddenly sat down and looked at the other officer, who showered the first one with heaps of praise.

"Good boy, such a good boy!" the second officer encouraged while the first one danced around and played with his favorite rubber toy, big brown eyes alight and tail wagging.

The Aurora Police Department recently welcomed a new, four-footed member to its ranks.

K-9 Nero is a 2-year-old German Shepherd who has been trained to sniff out five types of drugs -- marijuana, meth, cocaine and crack, heroin and Ecstasy -- said Officer Dale Riley, who is Nero's handler.

The above described scenario was a part of Nero's training, done after about a week and a half of vacation time. Marijuana, concealed in a box, was planted near the back wheel of a vehicle in the police station parking lot.

"You can see, he was right back on it," Riley said proudly. "He didn't miss a beat."

Nero also is capable of finding tossed-aside weapons and people.

Nero comes to Aurora from the Czech Republic, and was trained by Excel K-9 Services Inc. in Hiram, Riley said, describing his new four-footed partner as "super curious" and "nosy."

Getting Nero for the police department was an effort involving several individuals and groups, most notably the Rotary Club of Aurora, which was instrumental in helping secure the department's first K-9 officer Sayro.

According to treasurer Ron Echelberry, the Rotary raised $4,800 from the annual Taste of the Western Reserve event in 2015. The event raises funds for a non-profit group or cause.

In addition, the Rotary used $3,500 of a $5,000 grant from the Roethlisberger Foundation for the remaining purchase price, and $1,500 for other items such as a Redman suit -- which an officer wears while training the dog -- collars and leads.

Kathi Grandillo, president elect of Rotary, said Nero has already made several public appearances.

"He came to a City Council meeting and a Rotary meeting," Grandillo said. "He's very cute, but he's scary looking. He's a sweetheart, but not a dog you'd want to mess with."

In addition, other entities have provided services or supplies to help support Nero. The Aurora Veterinary Clinic has donated vet services for Nero's care, Pet Supplies Plus has donated all of Nero's food and Keith E. Huston from Village Veterinary Clinic in Mayfield Village donated a bulletproof vest.

Riley, who has been with the Aurora Police Department nearly nine years, said the six-week training started Oct. 5, 2015. "We've been on the road since Nov. 15," he noted.

Nero lives at Riley's home with his wife and two children, who are 4 and 6.

"They love him," Riley said. "He's a happy, quiet dog. We are lucky to have such a good, well-mannered and quiet dog. But when it's time, he loves to work."

But Nero wouldn't call what he does "work," Riley added. To the German Shepherd, it's more like play. When they are training, Riley always gives Nero his toy to play with once he has accomplished his goal.

Riley reinforces his training with Nero every other Tuesday.

"I don't give him his toy when we're actually working, though," Riley said. "Otherwise, he would just sit down [Nero's trained signal that he has found something] whenever he wanted to play with his toy. He's smart."

Nero never gets food treats, Riley added. Because Nero came from the Czech Republic, Riley had to learn the basic commands that Nero learned, which are in Czech.

"I don't speak the language, otherwise," he said.

As well as patrolling the streets of Aurora, Nero is a frequent visitor at the schools, Riley said. "The kids love him, and he's really good with them," he added.

Riley said having a K-9 on the staff "is an amazing value" to the community.

"Dogs can smell miniscule amounts of drugs," Riley said. "They also can track suspects for a lot longer and further out than a human officer can.

"A couple of months ago, we had a suspect run away. Nero brought us to him a couple blocks away. Also, if someone tosses a gun or knives or drugs, Nero can track those more easily and more safely."

Riley called Nero "a great public relations tool. I've met many people, and kids love him, he loves kids. We'll have 30 kids run up to pet him in the schools. While we are out, people will stop to ask about Nero."

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4186

facebook.com/aprilkhelmsrpc

twitter.com/AprilKHelms_RPC