Serve, Honor & Protect - Sgt. Riley & Hydro

K9 Unit for Walterboro Police Department


Meeting Sgt. Riley and Hydro like we did for this interview was incredible. However, if someone is meeting them in the course of their job, then incredibly bad would be the words to use.

Sergeant Jackson Lee Riley is from Walterboro. He started school in the Colleton County School District, but transferred over to Colleton Preparatory Academy when his dad, Leroy Riley, became Head Coach. After high school Lee attended University of South Carolina Beaufort for one year and then he transferred to The Citadel. While there, he walked onto the football team and played as a long snapper. He graduated from The Citadel in 2017 and obtained a Criminal Justice Degree. The interest in law enforcement came while at The Citadel. Riley had always enjoyed watching crime dramas and forensic based shows and had an interest in that area. After speaking with now Deputy Chief K. Martin, Riley applied and then accepted a job with the Walterboro Police Department. He was promoted to Corporal in 2019 and then to Sergeant in 2022. He also holds the rank of Senior Master Handler with the ASCTI (American Society of Canine Trainers International).

The favorite part of his job is handling a dog, specifically, his partner Hydro. Hydro, is a Belgian Malinois (MAL-in-wah). According to the American Kennel Club a Mal is “smart, confident, and versatile. A Belgian Malinois is a world-class worker who forges an unbreakable bond with his human partner. To deny a Mal activity and the pleasure of your company is to deprive him of his very reasons for being. If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their adored owner, is key to Mal happiness.” After meeting Hydro, this describes him perfectly. When he came into the office to show his skills, he was alert and ready to go, but followed the instructions of Sgt. Riley precisely. Hydro has been with Riley since he was a year old and the sergeant has been his only handler.

There are many applications a K9 can be trained in. Hydro is trained and certified in narcotics and tracking. Sgt. Riley comments that any time he gets to use Hydro in the field is great, but his favorite part is the tracking. Hydro and Riley tracked and captured a suspect on a burglary and armed robbery call this year. The narcotics certification can help with anything from a traffic stop to serving a warrant where drugs may be in the house. Sgt. Riley points out there is a lot of science that goes into what Hydro can do. A dog’s olfactory system is sensitive, but it is also smart. The gases that make up smells do not mix. They are independent of each other. Hydro can distinguish between the smells. Riley gave a great example of how Hydro’s nose works. He said that in a kitchen we humans will smell a pizza cooking. Hydro smells tomatoes, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onion, garlic, oregano, and anything else that is on the pizza. That is how he can distinguish between narcotics and what someone may use to cover up the smell of the drugs.

Even poor Hydro isn’t exempt from continuing education. Once a year Hydro and Riley have to recertify in tracking and twice a year they have to recertify in narcotics. The sergeant commends the WPD for a doing a good job of sending them to classes for their continuing education.

Fentanyl has become a major problem for law enforcement everywhere. Hydro is just as at risk as his human counterpart. Sgt. Riley assured us that he carries Narcan for Hydro just like he carries it for himself and other officers, and it is administered and works the same way for both of them.

Off the clock Hydro appears to be easy to please. He lives with Riley and his wife and apparently does a lot of sleeping in the den when off duty. He also like to roll on his back and wiggle around on the rug. Maybe he has an itch he just can’t reach, but whatever it is he loves doing that. He also enjoys going on runs with Lee. Hydro does take vacations with Sgt. Riley, but whenever that week is over, he is ready to go back to work.

Lee loves to hunt and fish when he isn’t working. He hasn’t had a lot of time to do that lately, because he is trying to obtain his Masters of Leadership Degree at The Citadel. Sleeping in has become high on his list of activities to do when not working or studying. Sgt. Riley has been married to his wife Rachel for two years, and she works at CMC as a physical therapist.

Hydro will retire quite a few years before Riley, but his future is secure. He will stay with Lee and Rachel and live out his retirement years scratching his back on the rug in the den.