What's Next for Shield?

Officer Lehner's trusted companion for last year needs new handler

Mike Baggerman
October 19, 2017 - 3:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – For the last year, Officer Craig Lehner’s trusted companion on the K-9 Unit was a German Shepherd named “Shield”.

Shield is currently without a partner because of Lehner’s death on Friday afternoon after he went missing during a training mission with the police department’s underwater rescue team. Lehner was found on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Lieutenant Salvatore Losi, the commanding officer for Buffalo’s K-9 Unit, Shield exhibited signs of stress because of the separation from Lehner. Since then, various officers have kept the dog occupied with training, play, and keeping him around familiar faces.

WATCH: Shield walks into Wednesday's press conference

Now, the task for police is to find a new partner for Shield.

“There’s an evaluation process that’s conducted by the original team that trained the dog,” Buffalo Police Lieutenant Jeff Rinaldo said. “Then a determination is made where his skill sets sit. Then pairing him with the skill sets of a new handler.”

If the skill sets of the dog can’t match a K-9 officer, a dog could be put up for adoption.

Losi explained the process of matching a dog to an officer would be difficult, but Lehner’s training with Shield may make it easy.

“People that know dogs better than me say that by observing (Shield) it looks like he’s been trained five, six, seven years,” Losi said. “They can’t believe Craig had the dog for only a year. Actually, Craig has done us a huge favor in the training. It will be much easier than it normally would have been.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, Shield was standing next to Losi, Rinaldo, and other members of the Buffalo Police Department with a slobbered toy his mouth, patiently waiting as he’s been trained to do so, yet panting noticeably as if he’s ready for his next assignment.

Losi said Shield exhibits the same qualities as Lehner including loyalty and professionalism.

“We even see a quirky sense of humor when he plays,” he said as Shield briefly lost his toy and scrambled to put it back in his mouth. “He definitely embodies the spirit of Craig Lehner”

Shield cannot return to active duty from a legal standpoint until he is recertified with a new officer.

“Even though he probably could easily go do a drug investigation, none of us could actually testify in court without that recertification training,” Losi said.

Whoever Shield’s new partner becomes, he or she will have a difficult task as Lehner spent countless hours on training grounds, even on days off, with Shield. Losi said dogs usually go home with officers, too.

LISTEN: What's next for Shield?



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