Monday was the first day on the job for a recently graduated law enforcement team.
Otsego County Deputy Keith Sheldon and K-9 Ricky graduated last week from the state police Basic Canine Handler School in Cooperstown and started work Monday.
“I’m excited,’’ Sheldon said, as Ricky lay alertly nearby. “I hope we can be productive for the county.’’
Sheldon, who has been a deputy since February 2008, said starting work with a canine partner fulfills goals dating to the time when his uncle, Hank Sheldon, worked as an Otsego deputy and K-9 handler with a German shepherd named Pete.
Sheldon and K-9 Ricky were among 12 teams that graduated from Basic Canine Handler School during a ceremony at the State Police Academy in Albany last week. The graduates included troopers and members of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and Schenectady Police Department.
In the local four-county area, graduate Trooper Patrick Darling and K-9 Ceer will serve from the Latham station, which covers Schoharie County.
During the 20-week program, students and their dogs were trained in basic obedience and agility skills, handler protection, building searches, tracking for fugitives or lost or missing persons, and more.
Sheldon and K-9 Ricky are the second K-9 team to join the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office this year. Deputy Kristopher Solovitch and K-9 Mika graduated from the program in March.
Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin said the department had three K-9 units in the mid-1980s. Last year, K-9 Marty died after serving the county nine years. Marty’s partner was Deputy Stan Cade.
K-9 units are “definitely a valuable resource,’’ Devlin said. K-9 units locally have been key in searches for lost children, he said, and the Otsego K-9 units are available to assist other law enforcement agencies.
Sheldon and Solovitch are two of 12 uniformed patrol deputies in the department, which also has two supervisors and two investigators, Devlin said.