Ceres police have a new officer on the job. Well, the four-legged variety anyway.
"Vegas," a two-year-old Belgium Malinois, has joined the Ceres Police canine unit with his handler, Officer Kiashira Ruiz, a four-year veteran of the department.
The dog and handler are replacing Zeus and handler Sgt. Joe Wren. Zeus' August retirement was brought on by an injury that occurred last year. Wren was also promoted as sergeant, an event that was perfectly timed with the dog's retirement.
Zeus is 12 and will spend the rest of his life off-duty with Wren and his wife Michelle at home.
Vegas was purchased through a grant awarded to the department by the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant also covered the cost of the rigorous 200-hour training course that gave Vegas and Ruiz the knowledge and skills necessary to serve as a good team in Ceres.
Ruiz first met her canine at the Nevada training site on Aug. 11. Both attended the five-week course taught by seasoned canine trainers. Vegas and Ruiz were tested and certified by a California Peace Officers Standards and Training certified evaluator and both are now on the streets.
Wren said that Zeus has aided in an estimated 200 surrenders without being unleased. He was severely injured on Dec. 22, 2013 when he scaled a five-foot-tall cinderblock wall -- something he has done many times before - and one of his back paws got caught in a decorative hole, breaking his leg. Wren freed the dog and provided limited first aid to Zeus in his vehicle until additional officers responded so he could be rushed to emergency veterinarian care.
Zeus was the 2013 recipient of the American Red Cross Hero Award, had been an active participant in the arrest of hundreds of suspects, and was responsible for the removal of a large amount of narcotics from Ceres streets.
Ruiz was hired as a reserve officer on Oct. 11, 2010. In 2012 she was named the Reserve Police Officer of the Year. The Gustine native later became a full-time sworn officer.