Jake the German Shepherd police dog loyally served Nassau County for a decade -- a few years longer than most of his peers — helping his partner, Officer Jeffrey Shaikh, arrest dangerous criminals, seize millions of dollars worth of drugs and reunite the mentally disabled with their families.
The 12-and-a-half-year-old police dog has ended his watch. Jake died unexpectedly over the weekend
"We lost a part of our #NassauCountyPD family," the department said in a Facebook post.
Jake specialized in patrols and narcotics, said Det. Lt. Richard Lebrun Wednesday.
“The entire department mourns the loss of Jake and will continue to always to keep him in our thoughts and prayers,” Lebrun said by telephone.
Often, police dogs are retired a few years earlier.
“It was longer in this case because the dog was so experienced and in such good shape,” he said.
Imported from a breeder in Slovakia, Jake lived with Shaikh and his family.
One of the most notable arrests the duo made occurred four years ago. Shaikh was on patrol in Hempstead with Jake when an urgent alert came over the police radio about a suspect who investigators said committed a rash of robberies — killing a gas station attendant during one — and had just held up a Westbury Citgo.
Spotting the suspect's car, Shaikh pursued the vehicle, getting a look at the man's face and obtaining his license plate number.
Officials said those two pieces of information were the main reason Joshua N. Golson-Orelus, 23, of New Cassel, was arrested in upstate Utica — using a GPS tracking device that police had put in the gas station's money. He later was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison.
After that arrest, Shaikh explained his working relationship with Jake in a Newsday story. "We share in all the recognition," Shaikh said. "Usually it's his nose that leads to the big cases. This time it was mine … It was a rough ride that night, so he deserves it."
Nassau’s police force, like others around the nation, buys one- to two-year-old police dogs from Eastern European breeders, who charge about $7,500 for each. Those breeders are chosen because, LeBrun said, their dogs are “very fast, very agile.” These qualities enable them to keep up with their handlers during what he said can be lengthy, tiresome searches, unlike some German shepherds that are bred to be larger.
Eastern Europe’s German shepherds, Lebrun said, “are considered the best working dog breeds.”
After arriving on Long Island, the shepherds, which sometimes only understand German or Slovakian commands, undergo six to eight months of training; the ones that do not make the grade are either returned to the breeder or put up for adoption when appropriate, Lebrun said.
"You go through a very, very extensive training period with the handler and the dog; it could take many, many months before that dog is ready for street patrol,” he said.
The value of K-9 unit dogs cannot be overstated, Lebrun said. “Police dogs are there to not only protect the public,” but, said Lebrun, the handlers and fellow officers in “many varied aspects” of work.”
Not only can they find drugs, explosives or hazardous chemicals, but their powerful sense of smell can lead officers to lost hikers or disoriented individuals and criminals in hiding. “They wear shields and are considered members of the force,” he said.
Shaikh is expected to be assigned a new dog in the future.
Jake's death reduces the department’s number of police dogs to 11. Four were donated by the Nassau Police Foundation; one by the National Police Foundation, LeBrun said.
In its Facebook post, police called Jake "a brave and loyal police dog" that "leaves behind quite a legacy in the #NCPD."
"Thank you, K-9 Jake, for your dedicated service to the people of Nassau County," the post said. "You will be missed."