Meet Jax, a K-9 of the Clarkstown Police Department, who’s tough as nails, loves rocks and works for toys.
Jax has been a member of the department since 2018 when he was assigned to work with his handler, Officer Mike Keane, before he was even a year old.
“There’s certain tests that we run them through, so when Jax first entered the room where we were doing our selection process, he actually turned toward me, came right up to me and gave me a few good loud strong barks,” he said.
Jax, who is originally from Poland, was around 8 to 9 months old.
The initial training begins with handlers trying to get to know their dogs.
“I did my best to introduce him to his new home at my house,” Keane said.
Jax didn’t get along very well with Keane’s first and retired partner, Taz, because of their alike strong traits, so they had to be kept separate.
After they met, Keane and Jax jumped into training the next day.
What first drew Keane to Jax was his strong personality, but he later realized that it would be an obstacle for him as a handler during the training process.
“I did have a difficult time acquiring that bond with Jax,” he shared.
Jax was trained in two different subjects, patrol, which runs about 16 weeks, and explosives, which runs about 12 weeks.
The patrol training, Keane says, is “ all about control-based.”
“It’s basically acquiring human scent, so if you’re either looking for someone or something, maybe a piece of evidence that somebody may have touched, discarded or tried to hide, anything with human odor on it, is what they acquire,” he said. “He will try to track the whereabouts of a person from a known location to a currently unknown location.”
What Keane loves most about Jax is his work ethic.
“At work, when he comes out, he’s really all about business,” he said. “If I don’t put him right to work, say I’m standing around gathering some information, he becomes very anxious, whines, spins around and tries to get me going.”
However, Jax can be an attention-seeker.
“At work, he makes his presence known. Sometimes annoying for me very particularly, but it’s very effective as a tool for the police department,” he shared.
When he’s at home, he’s less vocal.
“He’s more relaxed, but he’s still certainly on edge and aware of his surroundings,” he said. “He is always ready, so if I just pop up out of the chair and walk outside to the backyard, he’s right behind every step of the way right under my feet, like ‘Am I going to grab a tennis ball? Am I going to grab this? What are we doing, Dad?’”
When K-9s are off duty with their handlers, they always remain in some type of training mode.
“We can’t let them really get away with much in the home environment because that might transfer it to the work environment,” he said.
Because Jax is rewarded with toys at work, Keane avoids having them lying around at home.
“He has acquired a taste for rocks because he can pick them up and kind of play with them on his own, so he has turned every rock in my backyard into some type of toy,” he said. “He will run after anything after any given time. He is really just all about trying to play.”
When Keane leaves him at home, Jax is more reclusive, goes upstairs and hangs out in Keane’s bedroom.
The biggest piece of advice that the officer of more than 20 years would give to anyone entering the police K-9 world or any future dog parents is patience.
“Just try to allow them, their comfort level, to rise up as high as it can be prior to putting any pressure training-wise on them or commands,” he said.
Keane is certainly grateful for Jax.
“Whether it’s knowing a bark in the back of the car or it’s just an ominous presence that is needed to kind of cool out a scene of a crime to gain some compliance with people, I certainly wouldn’t want to do it without a partner,” he said. “Once you get into this unit and you realize you have the best partner you can really have that has four legs and a bunch of fur on it, it’s going to be difficult to go forward without that.”