The Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) has a new officer in its ranks.
Bob, a 14-month-old German Shepherd, is the newest member of CVPD's K-9 unit, but he can't participate in weekly drills with his team just yet.
Bob is still getting to know his new handler, CVPD Officer Thomas Luhta.
"We're playing, we're getting to know each other," said Luhta. "We go out in the backyard, play with the ball and walk around a little bit."
Their close partnership is both professional and personal. Bob and Officer Luhta live together.
"As soon as I leave him, I start worrying about him," said Luhta. "Okay, what is he doing, is he lonely, is he making a mess in his kennel. I worry constantly. It's always in the back of my head. As soon as I leave him, I start a clock in my head to get back to him to make sure he's good again."
CVPD K-9 Sgt. Joel Monreal said partnering with a police dog is similar to taking care of a child.
"It's 24/7. You have the dog all the time with you and you're responsible for everything they do, so you have to be committed to the unit," explained Monreal.
Bob is full of energy and playful, traits important for a police dog.
"We want a dog that's super active," said Monreal. "Basically, a dog that if you own him as your personal dog, you'll be concerned he might destroy your backyard because he's so hyper."
Officer Luhta and Bob will begin a 5-week K-9 training academy in August.
After the partners complete the academy, they'll be able to patrol the streets of Chula Vista.
"We use the K-9s as a locating tool," explained Monreal. "So they will look for the bad guy or for an article or for whatever we're looking for. And that will not only minimize the time that we use and also resources that we use, it also will keep officers safe. So the K-9s help us tremendously in the field."
The bond Luhta and Bob are now forming will be tested once the partners finish the academy. Both are new to their positions.
"It's kinda up to him to look out for me and up to me to look out for him," explained Luhta. "And hopefully we can figure it out."
Bob replaced another CVPD K-9, also named Bob, who had to retire in May because of a back injury. He now lives with a retired CVPD sergeant.
The new Bob was named after local resident Bob Sutherland, a supporter of the Chula Vista Police Foundation.
The foundation purchased Bob for CVPD and will pay for Bob and Luhta to attend the K-9 academy.
"The K-9 handlers respond to the same radio calls as other officers," explained Monreal. "They encounter the same type of calls, same type of incidents, conduct traffic stops, go and help people, and catch the bad guys. It is the same exposure to danger as a regular patrol officer. They just have an extra tool that they can deploy at times to keep officers safe."
Monreal said K-9 handlers also meet residents who want to pet the K-9s. He stressed K-9s are working dogs and people should not approach them without approval from the handler.
"The best way to meet a police dog is at National Night Out," said Montreal.
CVPD is holding a National Night Out event with demonstrations, tours and crime prevention tips on August 7th, from 4 to 8 p.m. at its headquarters on 315 Fourth Avenue.