ST MARYS — A jet-black German shepherd named Nando has been deployed by the City of St. Marys Police Department nearly 100 times each year in the past three years during his time on the force as a K9 officer.
Sgt. K. Mike Shaffer has been with the COSMPD for 14 years, and was with the Ridgway department for three. Nando now lives with him and his family and is also his work partner on the force.
Before deciding to become a handler, Shaffer researched the role for three or four months, called and visited other departments, he said. At the time, the current COSMPD K9, Kudro, was just taken off the road, said Shaffer.
A K9 handler should be proactive, says Shaffer, understand case law, search and seizure.
K9s are typically about 1 year old when they start training, and are energetic, focused and goal-driven, said Shaffer. Nando is now around 6 years old.
Nando’s story is unique, said Shaffer, as he was born in Germany. As a puppy, he was trained in tracking and detecting. He wasn’t a good fit for the family he was with, because of being very hyper. He was imported from Germany to Olean, New York.
All three of the COSMPD’s K9s have come from Phillips Command Dogs in New York, said Shaffer.
Nando responds to German commands, such as “nein” meaning “no,” and “platz,” meaning lay down.
Shaffer started handling dogs in 2008, beginning with former COSMPD K9 Copper, who was getting ready to retire. Shaffer traveled to Olean, N.Y., to meet to meet Nando, who was eventually introduced to Copper at training. Shaffer also has a Labrador, a former drug dog for Kane Borough to whom his wife was the handler.
Shaffer and Nando “hit the road strong,” he said, right away getting a pound of methamphetamine out of a mail package, and doing twice as many searches as Copper did.
Throughout Copper’s last year, he was deployed on 48 searches. In 2020, Nando was deployed 92 times, Shaffer said. The majority of Nando’s finds have been methamphetamine.
Prior to the DuBois City Police Department getting its K9 Officer Ace, Shaffer and Nando used to assist in DuBois, he said. Regularly, though, K9 Nando and Shaffer get together with DuBois and Punxsutawney Borough police handlers to train, watching and helping one another.
K9 Nando is trained in bite work, personal protection, tracking and evidence recovery.
Most recently, K9 Nando completed a building search for a hidden person as a newer part of his training, useful in situations like burglaries, along with Punxsutawney Borough Police Department K9 Officer Fury.
When Nando “alerts” to the odor of controlled substances, the officers have probable cause, Shaffer explained. It’s quicker, easier and safer to deploy Nando in these situations.
Nando displays “supreme obedience,” said Shaffer, and is certified every year in every discipline. Shaffer has to train 16 hours per month through the American Working Dog Association.
Nando has also become a great family member, said Shaffer, and is highly intelligent, athletic and playful.
K9 Nando and Shaffer make community appearances, too, at places like preschools annually, the Leadership Elk and Cameron County program and special events, he said.