STOW -- The city has a new police officer and his name is Ruger.

A little over eight months after police K-9 Colt died suddenly, Ruger, a 16-month-old German shepherd, went on duty June 28

"We are very excited to introduce our new K-9 Handler Officer Jacob Corfman and Ruger to the community and we look forward to their success," said Police Chief Jeff Film.

Ruger, incidentally, is the name of a brand of firearms.

"That was the name he had when I got him," said Corfman.

Ruger's start on the job restores Stow as a three-dog department. He may have police work in his blood. Corfman said Ruger's father is also a police dog, he believes in Allen County.

Corfman describes Ruger as having a "large frame" at 85 pounds, which can make him appear a little intimidating, but he is also friendly

"I would describe [Ruger] as a very social dog," said Corfman on July 6. "When he's not working, the only thing he cares about is playing with his ball. That's his priority."

Corfman added that when it is time to work, Ruger knows it is not playtime.

"He's very energetic, a quick learner," he said.

Film said Ruger's friendly nature makes him ideal for another aspect of the K-9 program, interactions with the general public, such as at police department open houses, city events and visits to the schools.

"It's a great community relations tool," said Film.

Ruger joins the department's other two K-9s, Spectrum and Mingo. Colt, who was the oldest of the department's three K-9s at 8, died this past October, six days after he started showing signs of illness and four days after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was the first Stow police K-9 since the program began in the early 1990s to die while on active duty.

His sudden death caught the department short. The K-9 program is funded entirely with private donations and at the time, the K-9 fund was down to about $2,000, some of which was owed for veterinarian bills.

But a massive fund-raising effort started and donations started pouring in, including $12,000 from Stow dentist Dr. Kevin Artl.

Film said there was enough money in the fund to pay the $13,650 it cost to purchase and train Ruger, plus roughly $500 for incidental costs, such as vaccinations and some equipment. As of July 6, this still leaves $15,294 in the fund to pay for program costs, as well as, hopefully, another dog down the road when it comes time to get a replacement.

"Those are dedicated funds," said Film. "They can only be used for the K-9 program."

Artl also said he would purchase a ballistic vest for Ruger, which can cost close to $1,000, but Film said he is reluctant to "go to that well" too often.

"There's plenty of money in the fund," said Film.

"It's absolutely amazing the amount of support we've had," added Corfman.

Both new to the program

In August, Corfman will mark three years with the Stow Police Department. Prior to that, he was with the Munroe Falls Police Department for three years.

This is his first experience as a K-9 officer.

"It's so intriguing being a K-9 officer in that it adds another element to the job," said Corfman. "Having a partner behind you on patrol is attractive."

Corfman spent six weeks, starting in mid-May, in Wapakoneta, a city in west central Ohio, training with Ruger at Von Der Haus Gill German Shepherds, which specializes in training police dogs.

The facility also recently donated Jax, a golden lab that did not work out as a police dog, to the Stow-Munroe Falls School District as a therapy dog. The donation was made through the efforts of Stow Police Sgt. Steve Miller, who was Colt's handler and is still the department's K-9 program supervisor.

Ruger, said Corfman, is trained in narcotics detection; building, area and evidence searches; tracking; and handler protection.

"He's had five or six uses in the last week," said Corfman.

These included some vehicle searches during traffic stops, with no illegal substances found, and a mutual aid call to search a burglarized building in Cuyahoga Falls.

"We didn't find anyone," said Corfman.

As is typical with police K-9s, Ruger lives with his handler when off duty. Corfman is single and has no children, for now.

"I have a fiance and a cat," he said, adding that the former loves Ruger and the latter tolerates him.

"He likes to play more than [the cat] does, but they get along," said Corfman. "At home, [Ruger] is like a puppy."

Currently, Corfman and Ruger work the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, the same as Mingo and her handler, Patrolman Ted Bell.

Spectrum works with his handler, Sgt. Erik Dirker, during the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. Film said that because of the disruption in changing shift assignments, this schedule will remain for the rest of the year, but eventually one of the overnight dogs will be moved to the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift.

"Our goal is to have a K-9 officer on each shift," said Film, the setup the department had before Colt's death.

But in the meantime, said Film, because the overnight shift can be busy with "a lot of traffic stops" and on some shifts, Corfman or Bell is off, Film said, "It doesn't hurt to have two K-9s on nights."

Corfman said he and Ruger are happy with their new roles in the police department.

"Speaking for both of us, we're excited to be on the road," said Corfman.

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