Oleg, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, joined the force in September. He rides the beat with his handler, Officer David Riddle, and assists in trailing suspects and locating evidence. He’s also trained to pursue suspects in foot chases and apprehend suspects, sparing officers from employing deadly force.
“Oleg is a special dog,” Oakley Police Chief Bani Kollo said. “He’s unique. He’s full of energy and loves attention, but when it is time to get down to business, he’s a tough worker. He’s been a great addition to the team and he has a great future in Oakley.”
When Kollo says Oleg is a hard worker, it’s not an exaggeration. When Riddle began training with Oleg, the dog was so focused on tracking a scent that he collided with a bush and took a thorn in the eye. Luckily, Oleg suffered no permanent damage.
“Oleg is far different from any other dog I’ve ever known, and I’ve been around dogs all my life,” Riddle said. “He’s so relaxed at home, but take him out in the patrol car and he gets jacked up. He’s so animated.”
Sometimes too animated. In his first weeks with Riddle, Oleg would get so excited he’d beat his tail against the metal grate in the patrol car until he broke the skin. The vet finally decided to dock Oleg’s tail so that he wouldn’t hurt himself further or get an infection.
Aside from a few extra trips to the vet, Oleg is proving to be a valuable addition to the department and has already assisted in cases in Oakley and Antioch. When he’s not on duty, he stays with Riddle and his family, which includes a German shepherd that has taken a liking to Oleg. But even during his down time, Oleg can’t take his mind off work. He has his own kennel, complete with a dog bed, but sleeps in the patrol car on oaccasion.
“It’s funny,” Riddle said. “I tuck him in with blankets to make sure he’s comfortable. I check on him to see if he wants to come out, but he loves to sleep in the car. He’s a unique personality. He’s a great dog.”
But what makes Oleg truly special is that he’s a gift from the Oakley community. When Kollo learned that Riddle had training in the K-9 division and was interested in becoming a handler, Kollo spoke to Jim Frazier, who was Oakley mayor at the time. Frazier, president of Friends of Oakley, helped organize fundraisers and spread the word about Oakley’s need for a second K-9 unit – and the community responded. Local businesses and residents contributed more than $12,000 to bring Oleg over from Germany and send him through K-9 training.
“It was a real grass-roots effort to bring Oleg on board,” Kollo said. “He is Oakley’s dog. We wouldn’t have Oleg if it wasn’t for kind-hearted people in this community, and he’s out to make them proud.”
Oleg is Oakley’s second police dog. Shadow, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, is in the prime of his K-9 career, and Kollo said by the time Shadow is ready to retire, Oleg will be in his prime, ready to take over as top dog.