By: Tracey Zysk, Doggie Columnist
Kyzer, Julie, Iris, and Eiko. Over the past five years these are names North Andover residents have heard or read about time and time again. But who are they?
These brave CANINES are North Andover’s Finest! They help protect the Town of North Andover, Essex County, the Commonwealth and in some case our Nation.
It is no secret that Chief Stanley is very proactive in keeping his department cutting edge. He keeps his officers well informed, provides them with unlimited training and education and is always able to provide top notch equipment to help his officers perform exceptionally well on their jobs.
But probably one of the most powerful tools Stanley has been able to provide to his department and to the community of North Andover is his K-9 Unit. This Unit is the department’s silent strength.
The K-9 Unit assists police personnel to search for missing persons, hidden suspects or articles, evidence of a crime, to locate the presence of narcotics and to detect bombs and explosives. The K-9 Unit also assists in the arrest and apprehension of felons and protects officers and the public from serious injury. The current K-9 department consists of Sgt. Chuck Gray and his shepherd Kyzer and Officer Bill Brush and his black lab Julie.
Gray and Kyzer attended the Boston Police K-9 Academy for several months to become certified in patrol/tracking and narcotics detection. Gray is a member of the International Police Work Dog Association and is also a certified Drug Recognition Expert and Drug Recognition Expert Instructor certified through the National Highway Traffic Safety Association and the International Chiefs of Police Association.
When I asked Sgt. Gray why he chose to become a K9 officer it was obvious that this was his passion and it was going to be the next step in his career. This decision wasn’t made lightly. Gray is married and has children. There is a commitment level to being a K-9 officer as it is a 365 days a year 24/7 dedication. When a K-9 officer goes home at night he is still working, his dog is with him, and they could be called at any moment. Knowing this decision was right for him and once the position became available Gray moved into the role whole heartedly and fully dedicated. Knowing this would a life changing experience; however, he never really knew how much his life would truly change.
On Wednesday November 14, 2007, a typical morning, Kyzer and Sgt. Gray were in their cruiser doing their every day routine when a call came in about a shooting at Independent Tires next to the Lawrence Municipal Airport. When they arrived they had no idea what they were about to encounter. It wasn’t just a shooting it was serial shooting. Once on site, Gray released the leash and let Kyzer go. Kyzer did exactly what he was trained to do; he bit the shooter’s arm and knocked down the gun. This was a shooting rampage, Kyzer not only saved Sgt. Gray’s life he saved the lives of all the police officers that were on location. To Kyzer this was just a day’s work. This was what he was trained to do. What Kyzer didn’t realize is his quick and accurate reactions to this terrible tragedy made him a hero. It also did not go without notice. Kyzer received local and national attention and several awards. His performance helped open the doors for other police departments to bring on their own K- 9 Units and he became a role model in the K-9 community.
Officer Bill Brush’s background is very different than Gray’s. Although he is a K-9 officer he specializes in explosives and is a member of the NEMLEC STARS team (North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council) and a member of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Officer Brush services not only NAPD but Middlesex and Essex counties. Being that he is sworn in as a US Marshall, he and his K-9 Julie may be called to go anywhere in the United States. When Brush and his first K-9 Iris started in 2000 they were only 1 of 30 ATF explosive K-9 teams in the United States. I asked Officer Brush why he chose to go into explosives and he mentioned that events like Columbine and 9/11 intrigued him into performing explosive searches.
Brush has been deployed to work at Superbowls, DNC Conventions, Ms. Teen America pageants, and has done sweeps on local, state and federal buildings. Not to mention all his calls with NEMLEC and North Andover. Definitely a busy guy!
When Iris retired, Officer Brush was paired up with Julie a very fun loving, very social, black lab. Although labs are outgoing they are also extremely intuitive in nature. Because they seem so friendly to the general public what most people don’t understand is while they are playing around they are actually doing a passive search. It’s a wonderful combination. Julie actually started her career training to be a Seeing Eye dog. However, fate called her to explosives and she was trained by the “Puppies Behind Bars” program. This program trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement.
Julie came to NAPD from the federal government and is considered an ATF dog. Because she is considered a federal dog she was of no cost to the Town of North Andover and her expenses are covered by ATF.
Most police departments that have K-9 Units tend to have duel coverage of narcotics and tracking. North Andover has three specialties; in fact they were one of the first K-9 Units in the State to have narcotic, tracking and explosives available at the local level. This makes them a very talented and valuable K-9 Unit for the community of North Andover and the entire Merrimack Valley.
But with all the glory comes the pain…..
On a sad note, one that must be mentioned and never forgotten is Sgt. Gray’s first K-9 dog named Eiko. On January 28, 2006 Eiko was tracking a suspect from an armed robbery along the Shawsheen River in Lawrence. At some point in the chase Eiko got injured along his mouth and jaw area. Being the dedicated officer he was he continued on with the search. The next day Gray noticed the injury and brought Eiko to the veterinarian for emergency surgery. Eiko did pull through; however, he never fully recovered. He got progressively fatigued and was unable to walk. With great heartbreak to all, mostly Sgt. Gray, Eiko passed April 1, 2006. He was the first police dog to die in the line of duty in Massachusetts in 15 years.