Special Report: Loyalty & Legacy

We bring you many stories every year about the benefits K9 officers bring to their community.

From finding drugs, to even finding a missing person.

Unfortunately, we’ve also had to tell you about several K9 deaths in Northern Michigan just this year.

These dogs not only play an important role in the community they serve in but they quickly become their handler’s partner and best friend.

“It makes work more fun, it makes home more fun,” said Manistee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Gillispie. “You always have that dog there and company even if you’re working all alone, you have someone there you can talk to believe it or not.”

K9 officer Beno first reported for duty in Manistee County in June of 2018.

Serving the community everyday with Deputy Brandon Gillispie by his side.

“Brandon was the one who always wanted the dog and so when he got Beno I mean I really saw him step up,” said Sheriff John O’Hagan. “The love, the connection.”

Tracking and arresting suspects, searching for drugs and recovering evidence.

“He was a very good dog from square one,” said Deputy Gillispie. “He was lights out in everything he did, all around perfect dog.”

But after finishing a regular day, just over a year into the job….

“I got a phone call,” said Sheriff O’Hagan. “They said ‘Sheriff you’re not going to believe this we just had an accident’.”

That all ended.

“It was hard, it was just like losing another police officer,” said Deputy Gillispie.

Beno was hit by car.

“Our community was devastated, Brandon took it really super hard, wanted to blame himself even though it was an accident,” said Sheriff O’Hagan.

“By far, it was the worst day of my life I mean he was a family member of ours,” said Deputy Gillispie.

While Beno can never be replaced…

Healing for Deputy Gillispie, the Sheriff’s Office and community came in the form of another four paws…

“It’s something I love doing and I wanted to do and I missed it immediately and I actually thought that maybe getting a dog as soon as possible would help the recovery process,” said Deputy Gillispie.

Meet Faro…

A one year old German shepherd from Poland.

Together, the new duo went through five weeks of training totaling more than 200 hours.

“It’s an amazing thing so when the officers first get their dogs, there’s kind of this is don’t know you, you don’t know me kind of a new dance partner relationship and then by the end you really start seeing the bond develop,” said Michael Morgan, owner of Mid-Michigan Police K9.

“It starts out everything is pretty basic,” said Deputy Gillispie. “Everything ties in to another subject whether it be obedience, tying into odor detection, tying into tracking, tying into bite work, it all comes full circle.”

“What happened with his first dog was just a very sad tragedy and I was really relieved when they told me he was going to come back,” said Morgan.

“Brandon’s always been what I consider one of our top tactical officers,” said Sheriff O’Hagan. “He’s just that good and he puts so much into the program for the love of that animal.”

Now when you see Deputy Gillispie, you can bet Faro won’t be too far behind, no matter the call.

“In this day and age especially with the drugs, what’s going on in our communities across this country, there’s no better time than to have that animal getting right back into it and starting so young,” said Sheriff O’Hagan.

Searching buildings or cars, finding a suspect or missing person, or maybe just making some new friends.

“Once you graduate school with them, it’s not over and done with there,” said Deputy Gillispie. “You keep training on all the stuff that you’re trained on and you gotta make them better and push the dogs to get better, it’s up to you as a handler to do that.”

So even though it might be a different furry face he sees in his rearview mirror now…

“He’ll never replace,” said Deputy Gillispie.

The bond between the two is already unmatched.

“You can just see the signs already, they just have a bond that is really hard to explain and I just want to watch it grow,” said Sheriff O’Hagan.

“I have no doubt that Faro will be a great dog just like Beno was,” said Deputy Gillispie.

Deputy Gillispie and Faro are now officially on the job and hope to serve their community together for several years to come.

We do want to mention that a big reason why the sheriff’s office was able to get Faro, was because of an anonymous donor.

A man wrote them a check for $1,500 and just asked for a picture in return.

Great Lakes Fencing also donated an underground fence, to protect Faro when he’s at home.