Will Janicki always loved dogs. Now, as the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office’s canine officer, he gets to spend his life with Viktor, the office’s K-9 officer.
“Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I loved dogs,” Janicki said. “We’ve always had dogs in our family, and when I was in the military, we actually had canines in our unit.” After getting out of the military, he came to S.C. and started working for the North Charleston Police Department in 2004, where he got to see first-hand what police dogs actually do. And he was hooked.
After coming to the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, Chief Buddy Hill offered him the chance to be the department’s canine officer. “And I haven’t looked back since. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Janicki said.
Janicki went to Virginia to get his certification and training as a dog handler. And to meet Viktor for the first time. “You don’t get to meet the dog beforehand, though that would be nice. When you go to get your certification, that’s when you get to meet the dog. They try to do a really good job matching personalities, because each dog has a different personality,” he said. If the partnership doesn’t work out, the officer returns the dog, which is reassigned.
Law enforcement dogs are selected as puppies, based on their personalities. They have to have certain traits to be successful in the rigorous training to become working dogs. Some show great potential as puppies, but aren’t willing to complete the training. “You have to go based on what the dog is capable of doing. You can’t train them all the same,” he said. And there’s no set time-frame to train an individual dog.
Viktor and Janicki turned out to be a good match. They’ve been together five years now. Viktor is certified in narcotics detection, apprehension, tracking and deputy protection.
But the six-year-old German Shepherd is also a lover — 100 pounds of loveable. He goes to community events with Janicki, so the public can see that he’s not a danger. That said, it’s never a good idea to just walk up and pet a working dog unless you ask his officer first. After all, protecting his deputy is one of the dog’s missions in life.
Janicki is a sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Division, and working his K-9 is just one of his many responsibilities. He spends his shifts overseeing a team of deputies. Throughout the 12-hour shift, Viktor assists deputies in drug detection — a positive response from Viktor gives officers probable cause for a search for narcotics.
But that’s not all Viktor gets to do. He’s also found lost people, some juveniles and elderly people who have gotten lost or were missing.
And the two enjoy their time together. Viktor travels in a specially-equipped, air-conditioned patrol car with a kennel instead of a back seat. “The good thing is you don’t ever get bored. There’s always something to do. And there’s always somebody with you in the vehicle, so you always have somebody to talk to. Plus, your backup is right there in the back seat behind you,” Janicki said.
At the end of the day, the two go home to Janicki’s family. He takes off his uniform, then takes care of Viktor, making sure he’s got all the essentials he needs, including his favorite treat: steak. “He’s part of the family 100%,” Janicki said. They’re together 24/7. And when Viktor retires, “he’ll stay with us, God willing.”