Southfield Police K-9 pup clocks his last shift with the department

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published October 27, 2011

 Southfield Police officer Jeff Medici and his K-9 partner of eight years, Aski, worked their last shift together Oct. 20.

Southfield Police officer Jeff Medici and his K-9 partner of eight years, Aski, worked their last shift together Oct. 20.

Photo by Edward Osinski

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SOUTHFIELD — It was a tough day for Southfield police officer Jeff Medici, though he didn’t let on.

But as he drove around the city, the poignancy of the day was clear, given the passengers in his squad car.

“The vet and the rookie,” he said, nodding toward the back of the marked sport utility vehicle.

Curled up in his usual spot was Aski, a 10-year-old, 80-pound German shepherd who has logged eight years as a Southfield police officer in the department’s K-9 Unit. Heading into retirement, it was time for Aski to turn in his badge. Today was his last day on the job.

In the way back, in a kennel, sat Chase, a 22-month-old Dutch shepherd recently acquired from Amsterdam. He is full of energy and eagerly anticipating taking the reins, yet still very green. Chase was about to begin an intensive five-week training program with Medici, and then he’d be ready to hit the streets.

The Southfield Police Department has four dogs and four handlers in its K-9 Unit, but changes have been afoot in recent months. A year ago, the unit consisted of a group of veterans: Aski, Dewa, Kilo and Axe. Dewa and his handler retired in December and were replaced by a new officer and pup. Then Kilo retired, and his handler went on to other tasks in the department. Now Aski is turning in his stripes as well.

Down two dogs and facing budgetary constraints, the department was planning to replace just one and continue on shorthanded, but the folks at Regal Towers stepped up and donated the funds for the fourth dog, much to the gratitude of the department. That new dog will join Chase in his training.

During his final shift as a K-9 officer last week, Aski was able to show off his skills one last time. He assisted an officer with a vehicle sweep and located a small amount of marijuana in the car.

While Aski was out in the field, Chase sat poised in his kennel, waiting for his day to show his stuff.

Medici said he felt bad for Aski during this transition in his life. He recognized it was time for him to retire — Aski was slowing down. Medici knows he needs the rest, and acknowledged that he’d live a longer life without the day-to-day stress of the job. But Medici said it would still be tough going to work in the morning and leaving Aski behind.

“His heart’s still in it, but his body isn’t,” Medici said, clearly touched by the realities of life and aging. “Then daddy brings in this young buck to essentially replace him. I’m not sure if he knows.”

Aski will remain the Medici family pet, and Chase is just joining the fray. For now, they’re kept separated as Chase undergoes training and gets used to the lay of the land and those who occupy it. Medici has “introduced” the two powerful pups — “they’ve been nose-to-nose,” he said, but he knows he needs to be careful about it.

“I should just put their muzzles on and send them in the backyard and let them figure it out,” Medici said. “But at the end of the day, that’s almost $15,000 worth of dog right there, so I can’t take any chances.”

K-9 dogs don’t come cheap. They’re bred especially for this work, and undergo intense training. Aski was $7,000; Chase $6,500.

Aski, and soon Chase, is trained in narcotic detection, tracking, building and area search, obedience, agility and criminal apprehension. Three of the dogs in Southfield are trained specifically in narcotic detection, and the fourth in explosives.

“In Aski’s eight years, he’s made hundreds of narcotic finds — multiple kilos of heroin, cocaine, marijuana,” Medici said. “Ultimately, these dogs are responsible for millions of dollars in drug forfeiture money.”

Medici, a veteran of the U.S. Army, has been with the Southfield Police Department for 17 years, and a K-9 officer for 11. Before Aski, he worked with Wip, who sadly was put down after three years on the job after suffering from an autoimmune disease. He’s been with Aski ever since.

“I was always an animal lover — I always had dogs growing up,” he said, adding that when he became a police officer and observed K-9 officers at work, he knew it was a path he wanted to follow. “It was something I aspired to do.”

What he soon learned were the unique nuances that come with the job — the little things that only a K-9 officer would know.

On his duty belt, just behind his gun, sits a special holster no other officer carries. In it lies a slobbery tennis ball, a K-9 officer’s reward for a job well done. The dog will do anything for that ball. And with that ball in his mouth, he looks just like any other family pet, happily gnawing away, bounding about, tail wagging. No sign that perhaps he’d just made a multi-kilo drug bust.

Medici has also become bi-lingual since working with these dogs. Aski takes his commands in his native language, Czech. And now that Chase is in the picture, Medici is learning Dutch.

Being a K-9 officer is more than a job — it’s a lifestyle, and a 24/7 responsibility. The dog and handler undergo weekly training on an official capacity, but the lessons are constantly being reinforced off the clock. Each handler takes his dog home with him to be cared for away from the station.

“The whole family has got to be involved,” Medici said.

The dog becomes his partner, and a special bond is formed. It’s more than that of the typical man and his best friend, or cop and his partner. It’s a blend of the two, a powerful “machine,” Medici said.

“This dog, no doubt, he’d lay his life on the line for me,” Medici said of Aski. “That’s the dedication you feel. You spend more time with him than with your own family. You’re with him 24/7. He follows me everywhere I go.”

While Aski will no longer be following Medici to work every day, he’s got a lot to be proud of from his years on the job.

In 2004, he was responsible for the second largest seizure of marijuana in Macomb County history, as part of his work with the Oakland Macomb Interdiction Team. That same year, Aski helped nab 11 individuals, $1 million in stolen electronic equipment, 28 pounds of cocaine, 950 pounds of marijuana and $210,020 in cash as part of that team and was awarded for his efforts.

‘Atta boy.
 

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