Royal Oak Beaumont’s new K-9 team hits the halls

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 30, 2022

 K-9 officer Angelo Gritsas stands with Eros, a 20-month-old German Shepherd and the newest K-9 to join Royal Oak Beaumont’s security team, at the hospital June 16.

K-9 officer Angelo Gritsas stands with Eros, a 20-month-old German Shepherd and the newest K-9 to join Royal Oak Beaumont’s security team, at the hospital June 16.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ROYAL OAK — A furry new face is on patrol at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital.

Eros, a 20-month-old German Shepherd, and first-time K-9 handler officer Angelo Gritsas can be seen making the rounds during the afternoon shift. The pair are trained and certified in explosive detection, aggression, hospital patrol and obedience.

Eros is also a therapy dog who is socialized and has brought smiles to the faces of many patients and staff members. In particular, Gritsas brought Eros into a situation in which a child was distraught over having an IV inserted. The child petted Eros and calmed down enough for staff to insert the IV.

Gritsas began working at Royal Oak Beaumont in 2018 with ambitions to one day become a K-9 handler. He was selected to join the program following the recent retirement of K-9 Elsa.

Beaumont Health System has 14 K-9 teams with three assigned to Royal Oak Beaumont, where the program began more than 20 years ago. Whitney Guerber, security operations manager for Beaumont, said it has expanded to become one of the largest K-9 programs in the state.

Guerber said Beaumont invests a lot into its K-9 program because the Department of Homeland Security identifies hospitals as a “soft target,” or an attractive target for terrorism and mass casualty incidents.

“We have nuclear material storage, liquid oxygen tanks, we have power plants on hand here — many different areas considered high risk,” she said. “The dogs are just a great safety asset. They’re an excellent deterrent. They definitely change the dynamic when dealing with volatile situations, and one of the nice byproducts is they’re very socialized and good for patient therapy and employee morale.”

She said the initial investment varies but is roughly $13,000 to acquire a dog from overseas — Eros came from Germany; train the dog-handler team; purchase equipment; and fully outfit the K-9 vehicles. Additional costs, she said, include veterinary care and food.

“Officer Gritsas is a new handler. He is loving it, and they do have a strong bond,” Guerber said. “These partners are actually partners for life.”

She said K-9 dogs generally have a lifespan of 9-12 years, and the hospital tries to retire them at around 8 or 9 years, for a total of 7 to 8 years of service.

After he was selected to join the K-9 program, Gritsas said he traveled to Ohio with two other handlers to meet seven dogs. He selected dog No. 2, and the duo went for a walk around a large farm.

“I petted him for a while and did some other things. They wanted us to demonstrate the dogs and also test the dog on different flooring — wood, carpet, stairs, dark rooms, bright rooms to see if the dog would be scared,” he said. “After everything, the master trainer said, ‘Angelo, I’m happy with this dog. If you would like to have this dog as your K-9, this is your dog.’”

Gritsas agreed and named him Eros, which means “love” in Greek and is a nod to Gritsas’ Greek heritage. He picked Eros up from Ohio in December and the pair began training at a facility in Taylor with four other K-9 teams, as well as familiarizing themselves with the sights, smells and sounds of the hospital. They still continue to train every Tuesday.

“It’s amazing watching these dogs train and how quickly they learn how to detect the explosive source,” he said. “In the first week, I felt like he already had it.”

At the end of their shifts, during which Gritsas likes to hand out baseball cards to children with information about Eros, the duo return home. With both sons grown and moved out, the Gritsas family consists of Eros and Gritsas and his wife, Angela, who shares a similarly strong bond with the dog.

“He’s also a family member,” Gritsas said. “I’m a happy dad. He’s doing great.”