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Indio police welcome K-9 Officer Zeus to the force

Community fundraising brings the 3-year-old German Shepard to Indio

Indio dog

INDIO, Calif. -

"Everyone got to meet my new 4-legged partner Zeus. He's a 3-year-old German Shepard. We're here showing him off," said Indio Police Officer Austin Studer.

Recognizing danger in a muzzle demonstration, Officer Zeus did just that at a community meet and greet held at Elks Lodge of Indio on Tuesday night.

Patrolling the streets of Indio and tracking down bad guys together for the past four weeks, Studer, a K-9 handler, calls his new partner a "natural crime fighter."

"He's a high-energy dog trained in narcotics and street apprehensions," said Studer.

"Ninety-eight percent of the dog is the sense of them being able to smell and detect, and that assistance is obviously a talent that not your average officer has," said Indio Police spokesman, Ben Guitron.

While the department looked to replace its retired K-9 officer, Elks Lodge of Indio raised nearly $7,500 dollars with a pancake breakfast to help cover the $17,000 cost for Zeus.

"We saw that necessity. Elk's Lodge in Indio, we stepped up did what we're supposed to do, which is benefit the community," said Elks Lodge Secretary Jack Wheeler.

The department's K-9s have been fully funded by the community since the mid-90s. 

"If it wasn't for the community, we wouldn't have our K-9 unit," said Guitron.

Studer says it was challenging when he first met Zeus in August, dealing with a language barrier and a highly trained and intelligent dog. However, it only took two weeks for these two to mesh and become best friends, said Studer.

While engaged in any fight, Studer says it's more than just taking responsibility for himself, it's "Realizing that he can get hurt just as I do and it's on me to be aware of not only my surroundings but his surroundings."

Like any patrolling duo, their duty is to protect and keep each other safe.

"I'm constantly running through scenarios in my head, making sure whatever comes up, we can deal with as a team," said Studer.

One scenario he fears is Monday's incident in Beaumont. The California Highway Patrol K-9 named Ranger was shot during a standoff in response to a domestic violence dispute. Ranger is recovering after a partial paw amputation.

"We don't take it well because that's a member of that department," said Guitron.

"It's really something special to go and serve, and do this job, which is already special in itself and unique. But to do it with a dog that would give his life for you without being asked to, it's a hard thing to wrap your head around. We all hope (Ranger) has a speedy recovery," said Studer.

When Studer and Zeus are off the clock, "He's just a normal house dog, I'm yelling at him to get off the couch and when he's putting his nose on the counter looking for food and what not."

However, when it's time to get to work, "You just have to trust his instinct. He's generally right," said Studer.

The Elks Lodge made an additional $5,500 donation at the meet and greet. The Indio Police Department says if it can raise the funds, it hopes to purchase another K-9 in the next year.

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