You’d think Kent Police Officer Jim Ennemoser would have seen and done it all during his 14 years with the , yet in the past month he had several first-time experiences.
Ennemoser is credited with pulling three people out of the Cuyahoga River earlier this month, as well as working with a fellow officer to pull a man out of the river in a separate incident. And, for the first time ever, he entered a competition with K9 partner Aiko and landed an award.
Quick thinking — and being one of Kent’s two K9 officers — enabled Ennemoser to pull off near . He was on patrol nearby when a call went out for the to respond to a possible drowning.
Ennemoser was the first to arrive at the park. He instinctively grabbed Aiko’s heavy duty nylon tracking harness and 30-foot lead and followed the struggling teen’s cries for help.
He spotted the boy about 20 feet from shore in the fast-moving water. Ennemoser threw his canine accoutrements out to the boy and pulled him to safety. He also assisted another male teen and a woman, both of whom had attempted to rescue the boy, out of the high water.
Ennemoser said having the canine equipment in his vehicle was key in the speedy rescue. “I probably would have still gone down to the river,” he said, but it would have been without any life-saving gear. Only supervisors' vehicles are equipped with life vests and throw bags.
In an unrelated incident, during the same 24-hour span Ennemoser and fellow police officer Dominic Poe pulled a man from the river near the Crain Avenue Bridge. The man had reportedly been struggling in the water, but he made his way to some concrete in the river he was hanging onto for safety.
Aiko wasn’t involved in either rescue, but he was a shining star when competing with Ennemoser during the first-ever “K9 Challenge” held in late May at Lock 3 in Akron. Sponsored by the Akron Police Department, the Olympic-style event featured more than 20 K9 teams from Summit, Portage, Stark and Wayne counties.
Dogs were judged on obedience, agility and criminal apprehension, with scores based on criteria used in state certification tests. Ennemoser was proud that Aiko won second place in obedience. Marty Gilliland, a Kent K9 officer since 1995, finished third in the criminal apprehension event with his dog, Felo.
Ennemoser, 41, said he decided to pursue a role as a police K9 handler because “I’ve always loved dogs and respected police dogs.” When the department conducted K9 assessments for interested officers in 2001, Ennemoser was chosen to receive Jessy, a female German Shepherd imported from Holland.
They worked together for eight years until a medical issue forced Jessy into retirement in February 2009. Her death soon thereafter was hard on Ennemoser, as Jessy had been a loyal and devoted partner responsible for drug finds, money seizures and the successful tracking of numerous suspects.
The following May, the department purchased Aiko as Ennemoser’s new partner. The black sable German Shepherd imported from Germany was nearly 2 years old when the duo headed to Western Ohio for six weeks of intensive training followed by their certification.
Ennemoser learned verbal commands in German, as well as everything about collar-specific training. He said Aiko knows what job he’s expected to perform when wearing his narcotics collar, aggression collar or tracking harness. “You can see the change in him with the different collars,” Ennemoser said. “He truly likes all aspects of work, but it may be tracking that he favors.”
In their two years together, Aiko has successfully tracked and apprehended numerous suspects. He is credited with a local “drug sniff” that eventually led to the seizure of $150,000 cash in Cleveland. The Kent Police Department will receive a share of that money — thanks to Aiko’s initial find.
At the end of the work day, Aiko relaxes at home with Ennemoser, his wife, Sgt. Jennifer Ennemoser, a Kent police detective, and their children. Ennemoser said Aiko is “best friends” with the family cat, a stray that had shown up at their house just two days after Jessy’s death.
Asked if 90-pound Aiko acts like a typical family pet at home, Ennemoser replied, “He has tea parties with my daughter and she can cover him with a blanket, but the bottom line is he’s always a working dog.”