Nero is not a fan of public spectacles. The 2-year-old German shepherd looked around anxiously at the crowd gathered to meet him Friday.

As the first-ever K9 patrol officer for the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department, Nero made his public debut during an event outside the Sheriff’s Department as a light rain fell.

“We want to thank everyone involved in supporting this project,” Sheriff James Kowalczyk said. “And for the recognition of the importance of having a K9 officer to help preserve public safety.”

Kowalczyk said in July that the expected cost to attain the K9 would be about $40,000, and a large portion of that goal was made through a $25,000 donation from the Chippewa County Lions Club.

“As Lions Clubs International celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, we wanted to make a donation to Chippewa County in the service of safety,” said Bill Durch, president of the Lake Wissota Lions Club.

Kowalczyk anticipates the annual cost of maintenance for Nero will be about $10,000, which includes food, veterinary care and training.

Nero and his handler, sheriff’s deputy Jason Bloom, will begin a 12-week training session beginning the first week in September and are expected to be in full operation before the end of the year. The two will be trained in tracking, drug detection, apprehension, handler protection and article searches.

Bloom, who said he grew up with dogs as pets and for hunting, was chosen for the position from a pool of candidates for his dedication and professionalism, Kowalczyk said.

The need for a K9 officer is vital in keeping up with the growing drug abuse problem across the county, Kowalczyk said. “We have 500-plus drug-related calls each year, along with 100 use-of-force incidents. And having a K9 will greatly help us handle this volume.”

The county also showed off its new K9 patrol vehicle, which has been outfitted with a special temperature-controlled compartment for Nero and a remote-control door opener that Bloom can use if he’s not near the vehicle.

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