WHEATFIELD — “Jasper County Heroes” has previously featured those that wear the badge whether it says police or fire. This week it features two heroes that are slightly different in that they wear their badge in center of their chest and have four legs each. Police K9s Alfa and Colt protect and serve the citizens of Jasper County with handlers Adam Suarez and Steve Holder, respectively.

The dogs and their handlers were recently the special guests of the Kankakee Valley High School Athletic Department during the Boys’ Basketball games versus Twin Lakes. They were there after being chosen as one of the KVHS Sunshine Club’s Community Service Project wherein the club has undertaken the task of raising money for the canine program.

“The entire K9 program at the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department is funded by donations,” said Sheriff’s Officer Steve Holder who is Colt’s handler. “It costs an average of $20,000 to purchase, equip and train a K9 officer. Jasper County would like to have a third dog on patrol so we are raising funds for that and to maintain the current K9 officers.”

Alfa is a four-year-old Belgian Malinois who has been on the force for 2 ½ years. She is trained in narcotics interdiction, tracking, article searches, building searches and handler protection. Her handler, Adam Suarez, has been in law enforcement for over 10 years. He started with the Newton County Sheriff’s Department before moving to Jasper County in 2013.

The dog was born in Czechoslovakia and came certified in basic training and obedience. Both canine and officer attended the 12 week Indiana State Police Canine Academy in Indianapolis and have had monthly continuing education as well as a yearly re-certification. In her career she has recovered half a pound of heroin as well as assisting in regular patrol duties.

Alfa is smaller than what most people would imagine in a police dog, but her intelligence was evident as she watched everyone and everything in the high school cafeteria. Her handler affectionately referred to her as a “pocket rocket.”

Colt is a two-year-old male German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois who has been in service for 10 months. Originally from Poland, Colt was trained at FM Canine in Michigan and, like Alfa, receives 16 hours of continuing education each month and undergoes a yearly certification. Colt has been involved in several felony drug arrests originating from traffic stops. Colt was a little antsier than Alfa, which Holder said was due to his age.

“It’s a rare opportunity to be a K9 officer,” said Holder. “Being a handler is never dull.”

Holder, like Suarez, began his career in Newton County before coming to Jasper County in 2016.

The dogs live with their handlers and are family-friendly dogs when not on-duty as evidenced by the number of children and their parents who came by the table to pet and fawn over them. Both responded immediately to commands given by their handlers, going from friendly, normal demeanor to high alert in a microsecond.

In addition to their patrol activities, the dogs do multiple public appearances, demonstrations and school searches.

Persons or companies that might be interested in assisting the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department K9 Unit can make donations to the program directly to the department. Both dogs can be found online at either the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office or K9 Alfa Facebook pages.