WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WVNS) – K9 officers play a crucial role in local law enforcement across the area and the country.

Following the deaths of police dogs in Fayette and Mercer counties earlier this week, we wanted to learn more about the work K9s do and the brave officers who train and work alongside them. This is one of their stories.

K9 officer Gaige Ratliff lives with and works alongside K9 Reeno at the White Sulphur Springs Police Department.

Officer Ratliff spends more time with Reeno than with anyone else in his life. He told 59News the bond between a K9 Officer and their dog is very unique.

“Not only is he with me at my house, but he’s with me at work too, all the time. You’ve got to take care of him and every one of his needs, because I’m the only one, not the only one who can interact with him, but really that should because he’s got a purpose,” Ratliff explained. “He’s a tool.”

In the parking lot of the White Sulphur Springs Police Department on Wednesday, January 17, 2023, Officer Ratliff set up a Find for K9 Reeno. He hid a bag of methamphetamine on a police car in the parking lot, and then let Reeno loose to search the vehicle.

Before long, Reeno pinpointed the drugs, and in a real situation, Officer Ratliff would be able to make the arrest.

Reeno has lots of skills because Ratliff is constantly training him, both on and off the job.

“Narcotics detection, tracking, apprehension, he can search buildings himself, that way an officer doesn’t have to go in, you can send the dog in,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said training Reeno how to do the job was tough at first. Reeno is an alpha dog who took a while to learn how to give back his toy. Especially on their first day of training school, when Reeno’s ball was in Ratliff’s pocket.

“So he grabs the ball in my pocket, and he’s ripping it because it’s his ball. And I can’t out him yet. And he literally rips my pants off in the middle of the class. Literally rips my pants completely off. Goes over here (gestures) and I still can’t get the ball back,” Ratliff recalled, laughing.

From a wild puppy to a crucial part of keeping White Sulphur Springs safe.