No matter if it is drugs stashed away in a car’s glove compartment or tracking a suspect hiding in an overgrown wooded area, Max, a Belgian Malinois, will sniff out secret locations.
For the past eight-and-a-half years (50-plus in dog years), Gaithersburg Police Department Officer III Chad Eastman and Max have been a K-9 team working various calls for service during every shift. “Every time you take (K-9s) out and you use them in a patrol fashion, you learn something new,” Eastman said. “I am constantly being amazed by what his abilities are and what he is able to do that we (humans) just can’t do.”
The two were first paired together a few days after Max turned one. After completing a 14-week K-9 school in Washington, D.C., the team has been handling calls for service ever since. “He’s always ready to work,” Eastman said.
But just like humans at the department, dogs get to retire, too. Instead of catching suspects, he will lead a ‘ruff’ life—nabbing naps and extra time to play at Eastman’s home.
The Gaithersburg Police Foundation (GPF) has been busy this year raising money through a number of fundraisers to purchase Max’s replacement. During one held at the Kentlands PetSmart in June, the team had to leave the event to assist the Montgomery County Police Department searching for suspects involved in strong armed robberies in the Montgomery Village area. “It was pretty cool to see Max take off from the event in his brand new K-9 (vehicle) with lights on and sirens blazing,” said Chris O’Brien, GPF chairperson. The team, which just got the new vehicle two days before, helped to find both suspects hidden in a swampy nearby area.
A 20-year veteran of the department, Eastman previously worked with a chocolate Labrador named Buddy on the Narcotics Unit. Being a K-9 handler, “it kind of puts you in the middle of everything,” he said. “It’s very exciting. It’s kind of risky, too. I kind of like that.”
One of his most memorable cases with Max came in early June. Two suspects with multiple warrants were driving a stolen car and crashed it into a local business’s gate before fleeing into a nearby wooded area. A gun was found abandoned in the vehicle. Eastman and Max were able to find the first suspect in the first few minutes and were tracking the second when a helicopter spotted the second suspect with thermal imaging.
Eastman estimates choosing Max’s replacement in August and starting a local, 14-week K-9 school with the dog in early September. “Max probably will not be officially retired until that school is over and the new dog has been patrol-trained, just to keep him available should we need him for emergencies,” Eastman said.