Last month, Massac County Sheriff Ted Holder received good news. He found out there here was a dog breeder who was willing to give the department a four-week-old Belgian Malinois free of charge.
The only hitch was the department would have to pay for the training.
Later that same week, Massac County Commissioners informed him that he would have to reduce his budget and layoff two people from his department. Training the dog wouldn't be in the budget, either.
Massac County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Wiley had been asking Holder for over a year about the possibility of getting another K-9 for the department. It was Wiley who had found out the breeder, Brandon Kepler, of Springfield, had donated a dog to the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department. Wiley is friends with the officer in Pulaski County who is the K-9 handler there.
"I've been wanting to do it [be a K-9 officer]," said Wiley, pointing out that it is something that has always interested him.
But, he and the breeder understood the county's circumstances and how the sheriff's department would not be able to pursue the K-9 right now.
Wiley approached Holder about paying for the cost of the dog's training out of his own pocket — that cost is $4000.
When Wiley made the offer to pay for the dog's training, Holder told him the only way he would do that is if the breeder agreed to give the dog to Wiley, rather than the sheriff's department; he agreed.
Holder explained the dog is Wiley's. Massac County Sheriff's Department will lease the dog and its services from Wiley. The department will also assist with the feeding and medical care of the dog.
The dog came from the B litter, and Wiley wanted to think of a unique name for the department's newest member.
Balak is still in the puppy stage. Wiley said he is chewing on everything.
Balak's father was about 90 pounds, so Wiley expects Balak will probably be about that same size when he is fully grown.
Balak began his training last month. It consiss of two days of class for 45 to 60 minutes and has grown to all day, every day as Wiley is training him even when he is not in class, and he is carrying a lot of treats to give Balak.
Wiley, who had worked with had worked with Mark Schneider when he was a K-9 officer, said becoming a K-9 officer has always interested. him.
"He [Balak] will be a good asset to the department," said Wiley, noting Balak is a friendly dog.
Wiley and Holder hope when school starts back up this fall, Balak will be a good tool for the department to take with them to the schools to talk to the children about drugs.
Holder said that was one request he had for a K-9 dog. "I wanted a dog friendly enough to take into the schools."
Balak will continue his training until February. Wiley expects Balak will become certified, just prior to his March birthday.
Balak has been attending Extreme K-9 training facility in Carbondale and is receiving training from Behesha Doan, who is the K-9 officer for the City of Energy.
Wiley said Balak is starting out his training with obedience and later will get more training in narcotics.
The sheriff department's last K-9 officer was Boss, who died in February of 2006.
Holder remembers in 2001 when Officer Aiden Pegram went door-to-door to help raise funds for Boss.
Holder pointed out if any individual or business would be willing to donate money toward the cost of the K-9 officer, the department would gladly accept monetary donations.