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Bryan and Zeus: a new crime-fighting team

Photo by Brittin Roberts Wadena County K-9 dog Zeus latches on to the arm of a brave Troy Wangsness in a training bite.

Wadena County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Savaloja graduated with a buddy and now they're partners. But his sidekick is a German shepherd from the Czech Republic.

Savaloja said he jumped at the chance to take on the intense training of 6-8 hour days working with his new K-9 dog, Zeus, over a 13 week course.

Savaloja said officers from Fridley, Forrest Lake, Little Falls and New Ulm were alongside him at the training in Fridley. Zeus was trained in obedience, tracking, agility, criminal apprehension and narcotics detection. The dog and Savaloja graduated from the course and were officially certified.

Zeus will be 2 years old on Sept. 18. He's a purebred who will likely spend about 10 years on the job if he stays healthy. Zeus is replacing Danny the K-9 officer who was famous for a huge drug bust during a traffic stop in Verndale. Danny retired and spends his golden years with his handler, Deputy Luke Manderschied.

Savaloja will forge the same relationship with his dog. Zeus lives with him, and "at home he is just a regular dog," Savaloja said.

Zeus has swung into duty eight times on narcotics calls and twice on tracking calls since being put into service.

Taking a bite is part of the learning process, and Savaloja said it's just something you get used to.

"I've been bit hundreds of times," he said. "Once you get over the initial fear, it is actually kind of fun."