SUTTONS BAY — Steve Morgan knows first-hand the value of a good police dog.
So one of his first moves as Leelanau County’s new undersheriff in 2013 was to suggest that the department acquire its first K-9.
“I knew all along that Leelanau County never had a dog,” said Morgan, a former K-9 handler with the Traverse City Police. “Way back when I had mine, I was coming up here to help them all the time. I knew they were a great tool for law enforcement and how valuable they can be. They have only one focus and that’s to please a handler and to do a job.”
Now Nico, a German shepherd trained to “detect and protect,” aims to please Leelanau County sheriff’s deputy and K-9 handler Greg Hornkohl. The 2-year-old, 80-pound dog joined the department in mid-December and already has been deployed about a dozen times.
“He’s a phenomenal drug dog,” said Morgan, Hornkohl’s supervisor. “We had a guy in January that was kind of out of his mind, refusing to give up a couple of knives, and (Nico) was there, making his presence known. He helped the tribe track a burglary suspect. And he’s out there a lot in the community.”
Nico’s route to northern Michigan began with a $15,000 grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians for a dog, training and equipment. Then sheriff’s officials turned to Mike Morgan (no relation to Steve Morgan) of Mid-Michigan Kennels, an Eaton Rapids facility that provides trained police dogs.
“What we wanted was a dog that was good at the all-over work that a police dog does, but also a highly social dog that a kid could go up and pull his ears,” Steve Morgan said.