Crime-fighting dog retires in tri-states - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Crime-fighting dog retires in tri-states

Najeh assisted in 287 drug arrests where criminal charges were filed. Najeh assisted in 287 drug arrests where criminal charges were filed.

After nearly eight years of drug-sniffing service, one crime-fighting canine in the tri-states is retiring.

The dog, Najeh, served the Grant County Sheriff's Office in Lancaster, Wis. He officially retired last month.

Sheriff Keith Govier credits the canine with playing a major role in 287 drug arrests where criminal charges were filed.

"As far as drug arrests, he was the most prolific dog we've had, and so we're hoping that the new dog can do just as good of work," Govier said.

Najeh's replacement, a pup named A-Rod, has big paw prints to fill.

The dogs' handler, Grant County Deputy Sheriff Jay Fitzgerald, named A-Rod after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Najeh is named for a Packers persona too.

"Najeh Davenport was a running back for the Packers, and we just decided to name him that," Fitzgerald said.

Monday morning, A-Rod had his first day on the job after undergoing two weeks of training with Fitzgerald in North Carolina. A-Rod is learning, among other things, to sniff out narcotics in cars and homes as well as assist with searches for missing people.

Even though Najeh's working days are over, his time with Dep. Fitzgerald is not through.

"The county owns the dog. Actually, they own both dogs right now, but at some point, we'll do a contract up and they'll sell it to me for a dollar - or I'm told a dollar," Fitzgerald said.

Najeh will live the rest of his days with Fitzgerald, his former partner-in-crime solving. In fact, Najeh and A-Rod will be like neighbors, since Fitzgerald is housing A-Rod as well, in a kennel next to Najeh's.

However, the dogs, each a Belgian Malinois, are no family pets.

"They're a tool. They're not a pet, and we treat them as such. They get treated well. They eat what they should, they have proper shelter, but they're a tool," Fitzgerald said.

Najeh, he said, doesn't even like being in the family's house.

"He just gets all stressed out being inside. The only houses he usually goes in are ones where he's looking for somebody or something, meaning narcotics," Fitzgerald said.

Najeh is just a little more than 10 years old.

"He's pretty grey, and I'm sure he's got arthritis and things like that, so he just hangs out at home in the kennel," Fitzgerald said.

When Najeh started his service in 2004, Fitzgerald said, there were fewer law enforcement canines in the surrounding area, so Najeh has assisted with searches in Dubuque County and Jo Daviess County, Ill., among other places.

"He was ready to go to work every day," Govier said, of Najeh.

This includes Najeh's first day on the job, May 17, 2004, and his last day in January.

"His first day resulted in a drug arrest and his last day resulted in a drug arrest, where there was a traffic stop, and the deputy asked for a canine to assist," Govier said.

"His last shift before he retired, probably in his last hour, we were called to sniff a vehicle," Fitzgerald said, "and he alerted to the odor of narcotics, and we ended up finding a substantial amount of methamphetamine in the vehicle."

Every dog has its day, as the saying goes, and Najeh's was impressive.

As for A-Rod, like his namesake, the canine may one day be named MVP: Most Valuable Pup.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office started up its current canine program in the early 2000s. A-Rod is the fourth dog since then.

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