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Deputy Kyle Ciolfi said becoming a K9 officer is his second greatest achievement, right after earning his badge.

The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office selected Ciolfi to be its K9 handler after receiving a grant from K9s4COPS for a German shepherd.

The dog, Ron, is at Pacesetter K9 in Liberty Hill for training.

Ron is just over a year old and is training for illegal drug detection — cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and meth — as well as tracking missing children and the elderly.

Ciolfi has two grown German shepherds at home with a litter of 10 puppies, so he is excited to have one as a partner.

“The aspect of having that specialty and using it, and making this area better with the presence of a dog, is going to be amazing to me,” Ciolfi said.

Ciolfi joined the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in May 2017. He previously worked at the Marble Falls Police Department and began his law enforcement career before that at the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.

The K9s4COPS grant pays for Ron, his training, and training for Ciolfi with Ron. The county has to provide food and medical care as well as a K9 patrol unit and place for Ron to stay with Ciolfi.

“His (Ron) happy place is supposed to be work, so I want to get him excited to work every day,” Ciolfi said.

Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd said being a K9 handler is a huge commitment for anyone to take, and Ciolfi showed initiative in his work.

“Not only does he want to be a K9 handler, but he’s done a good job out on the street actually working criminal interdiction,” Boyd said. “Those are the kind of things we look at when we give the responsibility of being a K9 handler. You have the dog all the time; it’s with you all the time at work, at the house.”

With a K9 in the department, Ciolfi and Boyd believe law enforcement will have a better chance of catching drug smugglers and human traffickers on major corridors running through Burnet County.

“One of the major things is that (U.S.) 281 is definitely a drug corridor,” Ciolfi said.

Ciolfi and Boyd shared experiences of traffic stops where their gut told them something wasn’t right.

A few months ago, Ciolfi recalled a stop of a vehicle coming from the border towing another vehicle, headed north, for no apparent reason.

“They were not giving good info, and a K9 was not available. I tried to call (for assistance), but it wasn’t available,” Ciolfi said. “So all I could do was release the vehicle.”

Boyd, a longtime DPS officer before becoming sheriff, said a K9 can be invaluable when things don’t seem right.

“We called a K9 out, and several times got large loads (of drugs) out of vehicles,” Boyd said.

Traffic patrols are one area for Ron to work, but Boyd and Ciolfi said the dog also could be used to assist officers on cases across the county.

Ciolfi begins his training with Ron on March 18 and will complete it April 5.