K9 hero 'Officer Jori' gets health insurance


Photo Gallery | Great Barrington Police K-9 Unit receives health care grant

GREAT BARRINGTON — The town's K-9 unit was one of 19 such units across the nation to recently be awarded a $500 "Health Care for K-9 Heroes" grant.

The grant is administered by Vested Interest in K-9s, a private, nonprofit company that funds protective vests for law enforcement dogs across the country.

The Great Barrington K-9 unit consists of Officer Tim Ullrich and "Jori" (pronounced 'Yori"), a 7-year-old German shepherd

According to Ullrich, Jori is both a narcotics and search dog. Jori is qualified to detect heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana.

There are now K-9 units across the state, serving individual towns, and the state police. According to statistics provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, K-9 units respond to more than 5,000 calls statewide. Annually, they locate more than 300 suspects or lost individuals.

In addition, they have located an average of more than 40 kilos of cocaine, 11 kilos of heroin and $3,000 pounds of marijuana. In all, K-9 units last year confiscated more than $5 million in illegal narcotics, according to the DOPS site.

Jori was acquired by the department in 2011. Following a three-month training session with Ullrich, the unit was launched in early 2012. The two also have weekly training updates, as well.

The unit was funded entirely through donations, according to Ullrich. That entailed raising about $30,000 from the town, he said.

Ullrich is a seven-year veteran of the Great Barrington Police Department. Before that, he worked for eight years with the Sheffield Police Department.

Jori, originally from the Czech Republic, figures in anywhere from two to three investigations per month in Great Barrington, Ullrich said. The unit also has provided aid to West Springfield during the 2011 tornado in that area.

Jori has been on the job for five years now.

"He's a veteran," said Ullrich of his partner. "When he's at a crime scene, he knows exactly what to do. I'm just sort of the guy at the other end of the leash now."

There are a total of 10 K-9 units in Berkshire County these days, Ullrich said. In addition to Great Barrington, there are three units in Pittsfield, and one each in Dalton, Adams, Lanesborough, North Adams and Williamstown, as well as a K-9 unit attached to the state police in Berkshire County.

The Williamstown K-9 unit is a bloodhound, specifically trained for tracking, Ullrich said.

The grant Jori received is a unique one, according to police Chief William R. Walsh. It is awarded to communities who entirely fund their K-9 units through donations. Communities also cannot have more than three K-9 units working for them and the dogs must be 2-7 years old.

Jori lives with Ullrich and his family, which includes three children.

"They love him," Ullrich said of his family.

At 7, Jori is in the prime of his police career. Ullrich said he doesn't know when the dog will retire, but added that "as long as he's effective, he'll be on the force. I hope he'll be with us for three or four more years."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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