By Cindy Jo Ayers
Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office has officers that are well seasoned veterans of the force and some are fairly young and new to the important work of keeping the peace.
Sgt. Dean Watson, himself a seasoned law enforcement officer, works daily with his partner Axel. The hardworking K-9 Axel is a 6 year old German Shepherd who was given to GCSO by Ocala Police Department and Sgt. Kyle Howie. Ocala Police Department had to find a home for Axel after their department decided to stop using police dogs.
Sgt. Watson and Axel spent some 560 hours training together at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Patrol K-9 Handler Academy. K-9 Sgt. Watson and “Axel” completed approximately 480 hours of specialized training as it pertains to all aspects of suspect apprehension and K-9 handling techniques, thanks to the generosity of Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Sgt. Watson, who grew up in High Springs, said he began his law enforcement career with the Department of Corrections, then later became a Deputy in Dixie County. After a stint with Cross City Police Department and a few years as a private business owner, Sgt. Watson became a deputy with the GCSO.
Sgt. Watson and his partner Axel spent a great deal of time together. Axel is well cared for. He has his own pen, dog house and food all provided by GCSO. He lives in Sgt. Watson’s back yard. Several deputies help Sgt. Watson from time to time as he trains and works with Axel several hours almost daily.
Alex is not a people dog because he is very aggressive. He is a well trained working dog that has the potential to save Sgt. Watson’s life each time they are on patrol together. Sgt. Watson said, “Axel is a very important tool for not only himself, but for all of the deputies.” Axel is trained to track and even apprehend (bite) a suspect. He is also trained to detect drugs.
Axel can go into a building and clear it in about five minutes before any deputies enter the building. Axel makes it much safer for all involved whether the deputies are serving a warrant or busting into a drug house.
The good news for Axel and Sgt. Watson is that he could work until he is around ten to twelve years old. Sgt. Watson said K-9s that work on large forces like the Marion County Sheriff’s Office or the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office have a much shorter working life because they have to work so often.
Because Axel is fully certified in tracking, apprehension, and drug detection, he can be used to sweep the schools for drugs. He can even find drugs in cars on the school campus parking lots.
GCSO has several K-9s and handlers but Axel is the only fully certified patrol dog. Because of his training and seasoning Axel is worth about $25,000, while an untrained puppy bred to be a police dog is worth around $9,500.
Sgt. Watson said Axel’s worth is unmeasurable if he saves a GCSO deputy’s life.
K-9 Axel is an important part of GCSO
By Cindy Jo Ayers