"That's a good boy," said Officer David Burck as his K-9 partner Erko, a two-year old, 80-pound dog, sniffed out a hidden bag of marijuana during a demonstration at the Hilliard Police Department.

"That's a good boy," said Officer David Burck as his K-9 partner Erko, a two-year old, 80-pound dog, sniffed out a hidden bag of marijuana during a demonstration at the Hilliard Police Department.

Burck bounced a ball against the drawer the bag was hidden in, and the Belgian Malinois often mistaken for a German shepherd, but lighter, faster, more agile and just as strong contentedly gnawed on it.

"His paycheck is his toy," Burck said.

Erko, who is one of three members of Hilliard's all-male K-9 unit, has been on the job for a month. He underwent six months of training in France, and responds to French commands that American bad guys aren't likely to know.

The dog that officers have nicknamed "big E" proved his worth in his first half-hour on duty, by successfully tracking down suspects who had bailed out of a stolen car.

Likewise for the second new dog in the unit: the 18-month-old, 64-pound Eros, also known as "little E." Eros was able to flush out a suspect with a knife involved in a domestic violence incident recently in Grove City.

"Already within a few short weeks, our dogs are making an impact," said Chief Doug Francis.

The HPD's original K-9 member, Brix, is retiring on July 25 at the age of 9 after six years of service on the force. K-9 dogs usually retire at 8-10 years of age after six to eight years of service and live to be 12 or 13.

Yes, Brix will get a retirement party.

"Everyone talks about Brix. The school kids all know Brix," Francis said. "When people heard he was retiring, they were amazed and sort of sad."

Thanks to community donations and support from organizations like BMW Financial Services and Kal Kan, the HPD will replace Brix. Officials are currently considering the proper candidate.

The K-9 unit dogs are used to track people who are lost or on the run, to sniff out narcotics, as a deterrent with their barking, and as ambassadors of the agency. With three dogs, HPD can use one to work on each shift. The dogs ride in back of the vehicles, and they live with the officer that handles them.

"He fit right in with the family. I have a son and they're inseparable," Burck said of Erko. "His personality around people is very laid back, happy, wants to please me, works really hard whatever he has to do."

Officer Doug Lightfoot is the handler for Eros on the late shift.

"I can't believe I get paid to do this," Lightfoot said. "He's been a great addition to the family. I have dogs and young kids at home, and they all love him. He's like their best friend. He lives to please me and get that ball."

Lightfoot said the K-9 dogs and police are paired together based on personalities, and it's been a good mesh between him and Eros.

"It's been a lot of responsibility, because 24/7, the dogs live with you," Lightfoot said. "Essentially, you're never off-duty, but that's OK. When it's time to work, he's all business. He reminds me of a cheetah when he runs. He's all bone and muscle."

Brix, who responds to German commands and weighs 68 pounds, is paired with Officer Jim Large. Lightfoot, who has worked with Brix, said that although his coat has become more silver, the dog is still good at tracking, searching and biting.

"It's been great," Large said of working with Brix. "He's gotten to the point when you put the uniform on, he knows he's going to work, is all excited and looks forward to it. In fact, he hates days off and vacation time. At times, he'll actually bring you your boots thinking it's time to go to work.

"I spend more time with him than I do my own family, to be quite honest," Large said. "I'm with him eight hours a day driving around here, and I see him at home. About the only time we're not together is when I'm at the grocery store."

Large will continue to own Brix after the dog retires from the HPD.

"It's probably going to take about six months for him to kind of get used to retirement," Large said. "Then he can sit back and watch reruns of 'Cops' and eat Scooby snacks."