By Adam Smith
The North Jefferson News
Gardendale Police Sgt. Darryl Sutton has a new permanent roommate — a 9-year-old German Shepherd with a distinctly German name.
The Gardendale City Council on Monday approved a resolution declaring drug dog Hasso von Vetzberg surplus property. The dog was donated to Sutton as part of the measure.
The gesture won’t bring any major changes to Sutton or his family because the dog has been a fixture at their home since 2005, the year Sutton was first partnered with the dog.
“The dog is not just a work dog,” Sutton said. “He grew up with my little boy. He was my partner and he’s part of the family.”
Part of the reason why Hasso is being retired now has much to do with his age. Sutton said drug dogs tend to slow down as they age, which could put the dogs and partners into dangerous situations.
Hasso, imported from Germany, first came to the department in 2001. He responds to German commands, which is the way he was trained. Sutton learned German to command the dog, which he said was a big benefit.
“I could tell him to do something and no one else would know what I was telling him,” he said.
Hasso’s intelligence extends beyond understanding German commands, however. Sutton said the dog has a knack at sniffing out not only drugs, but potentially dangerous situations.
He relayed one instance in which Sutton pulled over a vehicle that contained three occupants and Hasso sensed something wasn’t right.
“I was talking to the driver and Hasso was barking furiously out of the back window,” he said. “As it turned out, there was a stolen gun and cocaine in the car. He’s saved my skin a few times.”
The dog was also used last year to find a hit and run suspect who had led officers on a brief chase to Fultondale’s Black Creek Park. Officers were unable to see the man, but Hasso was able to find him.
“The suspect began to attack [Hasso] and the dog apprehended him and protected me,” Sutton said. “That was really his first apprehension where he had to bite somebody, but he knew he needed to do that.”
Hasso officially went off duty in October when Sutton’s duties changed from K-9 to investigations. The transition from police dog to home dog has been difficult for the dog, Sutton said.
“At that time, I was still driving my marked unit and he would sit by my car,” he said. “It was hard not to take him because he was ready to go.”
Because of Hasso’s friendly temperament, Sutton and his partner were popular with children and even grand marshaled the Pooch Parade at last year’s Magnolia Festival.
“He thrives on that more than anything because he loves kids,” Sutton said. “It’s hard to find a dog with that temperament. But, it’s like a light switch — when he’s in the car, it’s all business.”
Police Chief Mike Walker said a party would be held Feb. 16 for department employees who are retiring. Hasso is expected to be present at the event.
By Adam Smith