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For a tennis ball, sheriff’s K-9 keeps court facilities safe from explosives

David Parker would die for his 5-year-old Dutch shepherd Joey, and is pretty sure the dog would give his life up for him.

Parker is an officer in the Cook County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, and the bond between him and Joey allows him to keep the public safe from explosives.

During the high-profile trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, Parker and Joey thoroughly searched the premises for anything alarming. Every day, the duo will hit the different court facilities checking the interiors and exteriors. If he were to sense an explosive, he’s trained — as a passive alerter — to stop and sit.

“You never know what you’re gonna come up against,” Parker said. “We got a lot of empty searches, which is good, but you never know when he may stop and sit and it’s a real bomb.”

The routine for the day includes random checks at different times and places, where they have to be ready to respond at any given time. If they were to get a call at midnight, they’d be there, Parker said.

Cook County Sheriff's Officer David Parker and his K-9 Unit Joey check for bombs outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Tuesday morning, Oct. 2, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff’s Officer David Parker and his K-9 Unit Joey check for bombs outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Oct. 2, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Joey’s reward after a search? A tennis ball.

Parker joked that he sees Joey more than his wife.

“The bond is like, a family member,” Parker said. “We trust each other, for what we do every day I have to trust him and he has to trust me, that’s what makes us a perfect team.”

When Joey is off the clock, Parker takes him home. “It’s just like having another kid,” he said.

He’s a bit less rambunctious and likes to lounge around, sleeps a lot and watches TV with him. When he needs to be, he makes a great guard dog, Parker said. Both he and Joey love the work they do.

“I really love keeping the public secure. Joey is a great partner, has lots of energy. He loves to work, and so do I,” he said.

Parker has worked with K-9 for 18 years, and is getting ready to retire. But with so much experience working with dogs, he wants to continue this kind of public service.

“I’d love to work with dogs that alert for seizures and maybe cancer,” he said.