Community Profile: K-9 Zeus remembered after lengthy career
Glenwood Springs Police K-9 Zeus spends final days with Ofc. Gobbo and family
It was a chilly early afternoon in the spring of 2018 when an armed suspect fled from officers as they attempted to arrest him outside the library in downtown Glenwood Springs. The suspect, who was wanted on several burglary and theft charges, quickly disappeared from officers before hiding and locking himself inside a guesthouse on Bennett Avenue.
“We did a three-block area search and Zeus ended up finding the guy and alerting at a residence. He was going nuts saying ‘hey the guy is in here!'” handler and Glenwood Springs Police Officer Blake Gobbo said. “The suspect didn’t care about rifles pointed at him but we had to reassure him a bunch of times that Zeus wasn’t going to bite him.”
Zeus was a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois cross born in Slovenia and purchased by the police department from Castle K9 in Pennsylvania in 2010. From there, Zeus and his previous handler Sgt.Scott Robertson went on to train and obtain dual purpose certifications in patrol, narcotics, building searches and area searches.
Police K-9 teams add an extra level of safety for officers and are a force multiplier in their ability to cover significant ground in a fraction of the time it takes officers to ensure an area is safe, said Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras, who also was a K-9 handler earlier in his career.
Zeus officially retired on April 22 after injuring his back at the end of a shift and passed away peacefully in his sleep the night of May 5. He loved and lived to work, with a drive second to none and he continued to serve his community up until a month before his retirement.
Zeus’s lengthy career ended on a high note after he assisted in apprehending an armed domestic violence suspect near the Glenwood Green Apartments. The previously convicted and violent felon was threatening to kill his significant other by displaying two knives and threatening suicide by cop after a search/track with other officers. After the knives were dropped Zeus was sent in to subdue the suspect so officers could safely arrest him.
“He had a great career and we ended it on a high note,” Gobbo said.
Gobbo worked alongside Robertson from the time Zeus joined the department by being a decoy and helping with training sessions. In 2017, Gobbo began training with Zeus as a handler and took part in an in-house training academy put together by Robertson.
“He (Robertson) knew Zeus, so there was some value in that because every dog is different and the handler knows what’s best for the dog,” Gobbo said. “Zeus and I had to develop our own trust and relationship.”
After becoming Zeus’ handler Gobbo made it a daily task to build a bond by spending time with Zeus in his kennel and during feeding while at home. They also had to develop a strong relationship and understanding to be able to work alongside each other.
“Being a handler is a significant responsibility. It impacts your personal life as you have to care for the K-9 while off duty,” Deras said. “When the bond is established, the handler will become able to read the K-9’s body language and behavior. The dog will communicate to the handler when they alert to the presence of a suspect who is concealed or where narcotics may be present. The handler will develop the ability to read that and respond.”
The longer the two worked together the more Gobbo realized working with a K-9 is a team effort and he has to be able to read Zeus and lead him.
“When I was first working him, I’d just be behind the leash and put it all on the dog,” Gobbo said. “I later realized it was a team effort. If we were looking for drugs, I needed to remember where he’s looked and where he hasn’t looked. Or if we are on a track I need to be able to read his behavior.”
Zeus was certified in narcotics until 2019 when Colorado law enforcement agencies began reassessing their use of drug dogs after the legalization of marijuana in 2012.
During a 2015 Moffat County case, an appeals court ruled that police did not have probable cause to search a vehicle based only on the alert of a drug dog that was trained to alert to marijuana as well as other drugs. Since marijuana is generally legal in Colorado and the dog could not signal whether it smelled marijuana or another substance, the appeals court ruled that police did not have probable cause for the search.
Because Zeus was trained in detecting marijuana before it was legalized in Colorado, the department decided not to continue using him as a drug dog.
Despite this change, Zeus was an important asset to the department when it came to finding and apprehending suspects. He was deployed over 220 times and assisted in the arrest of around 100 suspects during his 11 years on the job.
His first deployment was a building search and apprehension on April 23, 2010 — not long after he started with the police department.
“They are a great locating tool and on a patrol standpoint you are sending a dog in instead of officers to find bad guys,” Gobbo said.
In 2019, a suspect with multiple warrants for assault on a peace officer and felony menacing was hiding in an upstairs closet under a blanket. Zeus was deployed into the house to find him.
“We knew he was in the house but weren’t sure where. Zeus went in and found him in the closet with a blanket over him, he bit him and assisted with dragging him out of the closet and we arrested him,” Gobbo said.
The apprehension would go on to be awarded the Colorado Police Canine Association patrol case of the year. The CPCA board selected Zeus and Gobbo’s apprehension out of a batch of cases taken from across the state.
All about the reward
Finding and locating a suspect or drugs for working K-9s is all about the reward —, it’s a game to them.
They love to work and have a drive that makes them want to do it. They are all about that reward which is finding the bad guy or finding drugs and in return getting rewarded with lots of pets and praise Gobbo mentioned.
“When they bite somebody it’s not like they don’t like them or they are vicious, that’s just their reward. They’re just playing and that’s what they enjoy doing,” Gobbo said. “They just get enjoyment out of working, getting the reward and pleasing their handler.”
The police department plans to begin the process of selecting a new K-9 team in the coming months with the long-term hope of having two teams on the staff within the coming years.
Getting a new dog is not an overnight process and can cost a department a significant amount of money. Handlers usually spend time with a group of dogs to determine which dog they like and bond with. Once a dog is selected there is a long period of training and certifications before the dog is ready to start working.
“I really want to start a police foundation and through that and their events, we would receive donations to the K-9 program which would supplant the department budget in order to purchase ballistic vests, additional training, etc.,” Deras Said.
After Zeus retired he was able to spend his last days enjoying life relaxing on the couch and doing regular dog things like watching the Kentucky Derby with the Gobbo family.
“Seeing my oldest daughter fall in love with him, talk to him and him sitting there while she petted him and loved on him,” Gobbo said. “And for his short time retired I have some good memories of him just being a family pet and spending time with him inside just watching TV, eating dinner, relaxing and chilling out.”
Gobbo is still getting used to going to work without his work partner and buddy.
“I’m going to miss the close relationship and the partnership. Everyday having him in the back with me and hearing him barking,” Gobbo said. “It’s awesome to find drugs and bad guys to see that he is a great tool and does great work but the coolest thing is just that everyday partnership. Coming into work and having your buddy there. Obviously, I’m getting a little emotional… we’ve done some awesome things together and he’s kicked butt.”
“The relationship is so strong and our lives are often at stake, the K-9 is treated, in many ways, like a human as far as their place with the family,” Deras said. “When the K-9 needs to be put down or passes away it is very, very emotional for the entire family.”
Zeus will be remembered for his commitment to serving his community and his complete love for the job.
“Some of my best memories at work are us just patrolling around and me talking to him while he spun around in his kennel super excited to get out and work,” Gobbo said. “Zeus would constantly bark in excitement especially when the vehicle would shift into drive or into park and howl/bark in excitement when the lights or siren would go on because he knew we were getting ready to kick butt.”
Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or email@example.com
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