Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo
Bosque Farms Police Department Cpl. Brad Killough gives Dukan, a Belgian Malinois who has worked with the department for five years, well-deserved pets.

Off duty, these pups may seem like normal dogs, but when their official law enforcement vest goes on, they mean business.

“As soon as I say, ‘Let’s go to work,’ he beats me to the door,” Bosque Farms Police Cpl. Brad Killough said about department’s K-9, Dukan, who has been working with the village since the spring of 2018.

When he is not at home “getting fat and sassy,” Killough says Dukan’s favorite thing to do is work. A dual-purpose police dog, Dukan is specifically trained in suspect apprehension, tracking and drug detection, but his handler has also been training him in article search as well as tracking on pavement.

“As a human, we’re like, ‘ugh, work.’ In his mind, it’s a game,” Killough said. “I’ll get him out to do a drug search — for me this is work. I’ve got to have my probable cause; I’ve got to have all these legalities in order. In his mind, it’s like, ‘Let’s go find drugs,’ ‘Oh, I know this game.’ In his mind, it’s not really work.”

Unlike other K-9s in the county, Dukan is not a German Shepherd, but a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, which Killough described as the “bull in a China shop” of police dogs.

“German Shepherds are just wonderful problem solvers; they are really more methodical. We’ve been using them for 600, 700 years,” the handler said. “Malinois are barely domesticated by definition, after handling a shepherd … and handling Dukan, I can see the differences.”

Since all the dogs in the area train together, Killough said the differences between the two breeds come out during sessions. They set up a dummy and barricaded it using old drywall, tucked away in a cubby, with the goal of apprehension of the “suspect.”

According to Killough, Rolo, the German Shepherd K-9 working with the Pueblo of Isleta Police Department, went back and forth for a few sniffs before probing his way through the debris and making the bite.

By contrast, Dukan quickly ran back and forth a couple of times before bursting through the barrier; however, also making the bite.

“I’m like, ‘Welp.’ The end result is still the same.”  Killough said with a shrug.

While Dukan is still far from the typical age-retirement of dogs working in law enforcement, the village had to flirt with the idea of possibly retiring him after he lost not one, but two of his toes.

It began with him breaking a toe on one paw, which could not be saved and resulted in amputation. A month and a half later, the same thing happened to Dukan on the opposite paw.

“Dukan, himself, despite missing his toes, you would never know,” Killough said. “(He’ll retire) probably in the summer of 2024 so long as nothing detrimental happens to him. That’s when we’ll start putting those feelers out, and start looking (for a new K-9).”

He added that once the dogs reach about 8 years old is when departments will begin to consider retirement.

“It depends on the dog itself. It depends on their character, how strong they are, how hard their career has been on them,” he said. “These dogs are essentially professional athletes. The high training, the stuff we put it through. Most of the ones I know make it to about 10 and then they retire.”

Perone, the K-9 at the Los Lunas Police Department, will turn 10 years old at the end of this year with his handler, officer Santiago Beyal, making plans for his retirement more than likely by the end of the year.

Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo
Los Lunas Police K-9 officer Santiago Beyal has worked with police dog, Perone, for the past eight years with the canine looking at retirement within the next year.

While his hips aren’t what they used to be, Beyal said what Perone lacks in speed, he makes up for in experience.

“The younger dogs are faster, or they jump higher, but he’s learned what I’ve expected of him and he’s more comfortable in different environments,” Beyal said. “The other dogs have a difficult time with slick floors — that’s a real common one — or they have difficult times with dark rooms or are sensitive to certain sounds or odors.

“You have to expose them to all of that. He’s experienced, so he doesn’t have any of those problems. He’s not as quick, but he can do all these things exceptionally well.”

Perone has been with LLPD for the past eight years, with Beyal as his handler during the course of his police career. Like Dukan, Perone is also dual-purpose — trained in suspect apprehension and narcotic detection. Together, they work with all the different law enforcement agencies in the area.

“His favorite thing to do is work really — how you train him is to train a game,” Beyal said. “People have a misconception that police dogs are vicious dogs, biting or whatever, but, all that is trained as a game. You start with a toy and develop a game to get this particular action you need them to do, or this particular thing. So, he loves working.”

When not working, Perone lives life like a normal dog, now fully integrated into the Beyal family. He said he plans on keeping him following his retirement.

While Dukan and Perone chase down the bad guys, another Valencia County dog in law enforcement has a more laid-back role in the community.

Since late 2017, Bo, an American Kennel Club registered German shepherd, and his handler Valencia County Sheriff’s reserve deputy Joseph Krcal have been volunteering with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office.

Bo has AKC Canine Good Citizenship training and credentials with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, allowing him to offer comfort to people in crisis.

A lover of German shepherds his whole life, Krcal saw an opportunity to use a dog typically associated with fierceness for a gentler role.

“I noticed a lot of therapy dogs are labs or something like that. I thought, ‘Why can’t you use (shepherds)?’ They are this breed that’s seen as mean,” said Krcal, who was a reserve deputy with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for seven years, five of which were spent with its K-9 team. “I thought this was a good opportunity to see that gentler side. He’s done really well.”

Submitted photo
Valencia County Sheriff’s reserve deputy Joseph Krcal brings his registered therapy dog, Bo, to public events, such as the Good Friday Tomé Hill pilgrimage, to let members of the community interact with and get to know a law enforcement dog in a different role.

Krcal basically took Bernalillo County’s therapy dog standard operating procedures and transferred them to Valencia County, volunteering his and Bo’s time with the VCSO with then sheriff Louis Burkhard’s permission. The reserve deputy said current Sheriff Denise Vigil is fully supportive of the therapy dog program.

While COVID put a dent in public events hosted by the sheriff’s office and thus public appearances by Bo, the time he has spent in the community has left an impression.

“Kids know his name, ask for him,” Krcal said. “He’s been a huge hit.”

At everything from National Night Out events to the annual Good Friday Tomé Hill pilgrimage to matanzas, Bo has been a good-will ambassador for the department and provided services to the community. At one of the annual Hispano Chamber Matanzas, Krcal said there was a teenage girl who was shadowing the duo, but was very upset.

“I asked her what was wrong and she had been the victim of a double dog attack. So, we went over and Bo was very well mannered,” he said. “She got to interact with him and it helped her understand that not all big dogs are a threat.”

Krcal wants Bo to be able to do more for the community, including being present in courtrooms when children are testifying.

“I want to get involved with the court services so he can do that. If there is a trauma call, we’re available for call outs. I want to work with our chaplain and make him available,” the reserve deputy said. “It’s also in our SOP that he’s not limited to just this county. He can visit anywhere.”

At 9 years old, Bo is in his early 60s in “dog years,” but Krcal quips he is too.

“This is my way of being able to still be involved in law enforcement,” he said. “We want to help the community understand it’s not all about guns and handcuffs. We want to get into the community and help where we can.

“We’re in a line of work where there’s a lot of tragedy. There’s a lot of hardship and we want to try to bring something to the table that lessens that.”

What’s your Reaction?

Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.

Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.