By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – There’s a new sheriff in town.
Well, not exactly. Rather, there’s a new member on Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis’s team – Zeus, an eight-month old mixed lab.
Evangelidis introduced the new K-9 to the public in a press conference held at the Petco in Shrewsbury Oct. 30. The store had nominated the sheriff’s department to receive a Helping Hands Grant for $30,000 from the Petco Foundation, allowing the department to cover all of the costs associated with training Zeus as well as taking care of many of the needs of the department’s other K-9s.
Zeus came to Dog Orphans, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter located in Douglas, Mass., after originally starting out his life in a shelter in Georgia. He then was identified by the sheriff’s department as a good candidate to serve as a single purpose narcotics detection K-9. The department tries whenever possible to adopt dogs from local shelters.
Zeus is now a working dog but he is also a family dog. He came to live with his partner, Sergeant Brian Richardson and his family, at just three and half months old.
“It’s really special to have a pet like this that can make a great family pet but at the same time serve people of this community in ways that are extraordinary,” Evangelidis noted.
Zeus had been receiving training twice a month at the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department and is now trained in detecting narcotics.
At the event, Evangelidis recognized Petco for their continued partnership and support through their Helping Heroes Grant which has facilitated not only adoptions but the construction of a kennel for the four dogs that the sheriff’s department currently owns. The kennel houses the dogs when they come to work and is equipped with heat, air conditioning, indoor and outdoor spaces and plenty of room for the dogs to run around.
Heidi Fowler, Petco’s Assistant Manager and Store Manager Tom Labonte also spoke at the event.
“We love animals and we love helping animals and if we can help them while also helping people then that’s even better,” Fowler said.
“It’s a special shout out to our customers,” Labonte added. “They are the ones who are making the donations to help the Foundation.”
Evangelidis explained that these dogs are ready to go at the drop of a hat. Aside from sniffing out narcotics at the sheriff’s facility they are also available to assist in the community. Police departments have utilized them and they have gone into schools for demonstrations.
This is the first time that Richardson has worked with a K-9.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience for me. Zeus is a fantastic family pet and my kids love him. He’s great at home and he’s great at work,” Richardson said. “Being fully trained at just eight months, he is ahead of most dogs. He is almost fully grown at just over 50 pounds.”
Ronald Morse, the executive director of Dog Orphans also spoke at the event, noting, that had Zeus stayed in Georgia, his fate might have been quite different.
“I’d like to thank the [sheriff’s] department for their research and this program,” he said. “We get a lot of dogs from out of state, they are great dogs and it’s a great program you have putting them to great use.”
Addressing the patrons who had stopped to watch the ceremony, Evangelidis noted, “Our dogs work hard every day in the line of duty, they truly are local heroes. And they are working hard for you every day.”
For more information on Dog Orphans, visit dogorphans.com.