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Captain Kirk, the Sheriff's new canine deputy

Captain Kirk wears his new badge at his graduation ceremony Monday at the Animal Humane Society in Woodbury. Photo courtesy of the Animal Humane Society

Captain Kirk could hardly sit still as he received his badge from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Kirk, a 1-year-old bulldog-lab mix from the Woodbury Animal Humane Society, jumped and wagged his tail as Sheriff Dan Starry pinned on his new badge, culminating his training since his June adoption. While the K-9 unit has six other dogs cross-trained in skills including drug detection, Kirk will focus solely on narcotics, filling a spot left by a retired canine officer that did the same.

"There's going to be great things to come with this," Starry said to a small crowd of mostly officers and employees from the shelter.

Having a dog such as Kirk — who Starry said is playful with a great sense of smell — to focus on just drugs is helpful in part because he looks smaller and less threatening than traditional police dogs, Starry said.

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"We know that for houses and for schools, a single purpose dog like this really fits our needs for that," Starry said. "Plus, it's really unassuming. You would never know a dog like this is a sole purpose narcotics detection dog."

Kirk came to the Animal Humane Society's Woodbury location from Alabama, said Zach Nugent, a spokesperson for the shelter.

He had previously been adopted by someone who returned him after finding he wasn't a great fit for their cat because of his high level of playfulness — which ended up being one of the exact traits the Sheriff's Office was looking for, Nugent said.

Usually, Starry said, law enforcement will buy dogs specifically bred for police work, which can cost around $5,000.

But with prior experience as a canine officer, Starry said he wanted to explore the option of adopting a dog.

"At first ... I was a little skeptical of the idea, it's something definitely out of the norm for what we do with training for these dogs," Sgt. Ty Jacobson said at the ceremony. "It just so happened that the dog that was the right fit for us was right here in Washington County ... It just showed me that we don't always need to be looking for the high-end dogs."

Nugent said that Kirk is one of a handful of dogs that the shelter has seen take a police or service job in recent years.

"We get excited any time we can adopt a dog, and then when we see that dog not just going to a family but going to a service role, it's just all the more better," he said. "To see the badge be presented to this dog that was at our shetler at one point. That was absolutely heartwarming."