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At 19 months old, “Case” still has a lot of growing up to do.
Physically, emotionally, obediently, “he’s a lot of puppy,” says Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger First Class Jack Thain.
But age and inexperience aside, this K-9 for the DNR, a first in the coastal region, has already proven to be a great partner to Thain by being able to do things that most humans cannot.
On the job for only four months, Case helped retrieve stolen property hidden on several acres of rural land in Wayne County, and track suspects in a gas station robbery in Effingham County. Both times Case used his natural German Shepherd instincts (the breed is said to have 225 million scent receptors in their nose) to get the job done.
In the Wayne County incident, Thain said the suspect camouflaged the stolen property well, which included seven guns, ammunition, two televisions and other electronics. “A lot of people would walk right by some of the stuff that he (Case) found.”
Thain reports to DNR’s Region 7, headquartered in Brunswick, which serves all of the coastal Georgia counties. The two do their main patrol in Bryan and Liberty counties and work at the DNR facility in Richmond Hill.
Case is the only K-9 in Region 7, and is one of eight in the state for the DNR, Thain said.
The dog was partnered with Thain in January, donated from a kennel in South Carolina, but did not come equipped with any law enforcement or obedience training.
“It was like trying to wrangle a wild animal,” he joked. “He’ll be in training for the rest of his life, but they learn extremely fast.”
Thain, who has been with the DNR since 2008, and the Richmond Hill office since 2010, spends 24 hours, seven days a week with the animal, which is often the case for any law enforcement officer/K-9 pairing. He is married with a one-year-old child, who he says gets along just fine with Case.
During hunting season, a typical day for the duo involves investigating reports of people who may be violating DNR rules, but because hunters are armed, there is always a level of danger for the rangers.
“I didn’t really get him for safety, I got him for his abilities to further my job,” Thain said, “but I feel a lot safer with him.”
Case is able to detect wildlife in wooded areas or in vehicles. He can also chase down and apprehend suspects.
“He reads people. They are master readers of body language,” Thain said. “He picks up on a lot of things that I sometimes don’t.”