Grand County Commissioner helps train K9 team

Ready, set, bite: The Grand County Sheriff’s Office has two canine units. The K9s recently received training with Commissioner Rich Cimino.
Grand County/Courtesy photo

Two essential members of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office chase down criminals, find missing persons and locate illegal drugs – then go home with their handlers for treats and maybe a game of tug-of-war. The two German Shepherds, Danny and Milo, are part of the Grand County Sheriff’s Canine Unit, and are expertly trained to keep citizens safe.

Danny and Milo are two dual purpose narcotics patrol dogs. As part of their ongoing training, the two dog deputies practice their bite work. The dogs must be trained to bite to apprehend a fleeing criminal, but they must learn when to “out,” or release the person. 

This May, Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino recently volunteered to serve as a decoy for the two K9 teams, ensuring they’re ready to stop the next criminal.

“After suiting up and learning the basics of keeping both himself and the dogs safe during training exercises, Commissioner Cimino braced for impact as the K9 units were turned loose on their target,” wrote Christine Travis, communications director for Grand County. “Commissioners expressed their appreciation for and support of GCSO’s K9 units, which are integral to keeping our community and deputies safe.”  

Danny’s handler and partner is Sergeant Nate Opsahl; Milo’s handler and partner is Sergeant DJ Elthorp. After Cimino got into the bite suit, Sgts. Opsahl and Elthorp released the dogs, which aimed for his arm. The dogs practice biting, shaking and holding the arm or leg of a decoy.

Thanks to training like this, Milo and Danny are both accomplished K9 partners for the sergeants. Although biting to stop a fleeing criminal is an important skill, Danny and Milo undertake many other important tasks – from sniffing out narcotics, to finding missing persons and reuniting them with their families.

The dogs extensively practice their skill sets, such as drug sniffing and tracking, with their handlers each week. As resourceful, agile and intelligent animals (with a sense of smell up to 100,000 times better than a human) Milo and Danny are well-equipment for any scenario.

Both dogs have also been trained internationally before arriving to Grand County. Milo was born in the Czech Republic. He originally received training in Germany, then was matched Sgt. Elthorp after coming to the U.S. in 2018. In the U.S., Milo trained at the Rocky Mountain Canine Academy in Black Hawk, followed by training with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, as he and Elthorp learned to work as a team.  Danny was born in Hungary and trained in Holland, then Indiana. He was matched with Sgt. Opsahl after coming to the U.S. in 2015.

Canine Milo and Sergeant DJ Elthorp at the High Desert Police K9 Association K9 Challenge this April.
Grand County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

Each year, Danny and Milo also participate in challenges and seminars with other K9s from around the region. This April, Danny and Milo attended the High Desert Police K9 Association K9 Challenge in Delta. The K9 Association provides training for canine teams across Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Then in May, the dog duo attended the National Police Canine Association Seminar in Jackson, Wyoming. At these events, Danny and Milo showed off their agility as they worked alongside the sergeants in an obstacle course.  

The K9s have also received awards for their abilities. Travis stated that in 2022, Opsahl and Danny received the tracking case of the year, and Elthorp and Milo received the narcotics case of the year. Both honors came from the High Desert Police K9 Association. 

The K9 units are always at the ready. Danny and Milo often work in the field alongside Sgts. Opsahl and Elthorp. The dogs were deployed 92 times in 2022, 102 times in 2021 and 96 times in 2020. Danny and Milo also assist law enforcement in neighboring counties.

Canine Danny and Sergeant Nate Opsahl work together at the National Police Canine Association seminar in Jackson, Wyoming.
Grand County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy Photo
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