PINCKNEYVILLE — Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis is excited about a new addition to his staff, K-9 Rex. Rex, an 80-pound sable German shepherd, was donated to the sheriff's office by Top Dog Kennels in Indiana and Marion County Sheriff Rich Stevenson.
Bareis knew the sheriff’s office would have to retire a dog in 2020. Stevenson sent out an email saying they had a dog to donate to another department. Bareis reached out to discuss the dog.
“The reason they needed to rehome or repurpose the dog was they had a new handler who couldn’t handle the dog,” Bareis said. “Rex is a big boy.”
Top Dog Kennels gave Stevenson permission to donate the dog to a department with an experienced handler. Marion County will get a new dog to work with the handler. Their handler also will receive additional training from the kennel.
One other department was interested in Rex but did not have an experienced handler. Bareis has worked with dogs for at least 14 years and trained them for eight years. He has handled three dogs and trained at least a dozen for other departments. He raises Belgian Malinois dogs.
Rex has quite a pedigree. He was born in Slovakia and would cost about $6,500 to purchase, plus the cost of training. He even has his own passport.
“He will be 2 years old in January. I’m still assessing his training, then we’ll start training,” Bareis said.
Rex has been idle since May, so he will need to sharpen some of his skills and learn to trust Bareis as his partner.
“We’re making strides every day,” Bareis said.
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He also said Rex likes to work. When he goes out in the morning, he often circles the sheriff’s vehicle, ready to go. He and Bareis spend about two hours a day training.
Bareis explained that training a dog is like building a tower. Each new block of skills builds upon a previous block.
Rex is patrol certified, which means he has proven his skills for tracking and apprehending criminals. Bareis is training him for narcotics detection, too, and hopes to get him certified in that area in the spring. He is also working on article detection, such as finding something a suspect throws from a vehicle.
“As many pursuits as we are having lately, having a dog that can track down and catch someone is very helpful. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity,” Bareis said.
Perry County had three pursuits in one recent 24-hour period. In addition, budget issues in the county have caused the department to reduce its staff in recent months.
“From his records, Rex graduated top in his class in ability,” Bareis said. “We need to get tuned in and gel as a team.”
Rex is expected to spend about seven years working with the sheriff's office. He will retire at about 9 years old.
“I’m excited to be working with Rex and the prospects of what he’ll do in his career,” Bareis said.