With dogged determination, new grad fights war on drugs

Jun 4, 2023

All graduates deserve praise but one in particular this commencement season is doggone special.

Bristol County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the graduation of a new narcotics-detecting canine during a ceremony Friday June 2.

 Bristol County K9 Officer Joshua Wunschel and his partner, K9 Joni (pronounced Johnny), officially completed the detection academy and were honored for their accomplishment before family, friends, and co-workers.

“Being a K9 officer is always something I wanted to do since I started’’ at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, said Wunschel, a Dartmouth resident who worked as a corrections officer at the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford and the House of Corrections in Dartmouth for almost 11 years before joining the K9 unit this winter. 

“It’s been an amazing experience,’’ he said. “The best part has been watching (Joni) grow.”

And grow he has. Joni is a 21-month-old German Shorthaired Pointer who tips the scales at around 70 pounds. He is trained and certified to detect meth, crack, heroin, and cocaine, and is also trained on tracking people who are missing or in distress. His favorite toy is any ball, and his favorite treats are Milk-Bones.

 Wunschel and Joni are available to assist local, state and federal law enforcement organizations if needed, but their primary purpose will be to keep drugs out of Bristol County Sheriff Office correctional facilities.

 “Our K9 team will be an integral part of our focus on keeping drugs out of our jails,” Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux said. “Officer Wunschel and Joni have done a great job in training and we’re thrilled to have them be part of this team.”

Sgts. Michael Bettencourt and William Dillingham led the training academy, with Sgt. Dillingham focusing on narcotics detection while Sgt. Bettencourt led the tracking portion. Both had high praise for Officer Wunschel and Joni.

 “This milestone marks their relentless commitment to combating the scourge of narcotics coming into our facility and to help safeguard our communities,” Bettnecourt said at Friday’s graduation ceremony. “Throughout their training, Officers Wunschel and Joni have exemplified the epitome of excellence, teamwork, and a shared mission to eradicate the grip of illegal drugs. With each exercise, they have displayed an unwavering determination to ensure that our facility and neighborhoods remain safe and free from the destructive influence of narcotics.”