YORK – A couple of weeks ago, the York County Sheriff’s Department put out an invitation to dozens of young people in the county, asking that local kids submit pictures and names for the newest canine deputy.
The result became a big stack of papers.
On each sheet was a brightly colored picture of a law enforcement service dog, with big bold names on the top as kids submitted their ideas.
On the back of the hand-drawn pictures were names of the first-, second- and third-graders from Emmanuel-Faith Lutheran School, Heartland Community School, McCool Junction School, St. Joseph’s Catholic School and home-school kids who created them.
There were a lot of them – because every single kid in the eligible age group participated.
Then came the daunting – yet entertaining – task of choosing which name would ultimately become that of the new drug dog.
York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka said a committee of four was chosen that included Sheriff Sgt. Brad Melby; Lela Luft, director of the emergency communications center; Sheriff Capt. Josh Gillespie; and York News-Times Managing Editor Melanie Wilkinson. They sorted through the submissions.
People are also reading…
The artwork varied in colors, themes and artistic abilities.
The names were as varied as the pictures, with dozens upon dozens offered for consideration, including Bones, Browny, Keke, Roger, Dasher, Rander, Loki, Anny, Bella, Caylie, Shine, Luna, Dimeonde, Aysel, Rock, Max, Husker, Ruby, Ranger, Rosa, Special, Cutie, Girl Dog, Rosie, Flame, Rose, Violet, Lady, Heart, Isabella, Stella, Darla, Cookie, Rubee, Masha, Nora, Flash, Phoenix, Midnight, Bolt, Laylah, Polly, Rufus, Avery, Miley, Rose, Iris, Tracker, Alpha, Roxi, Midas, Faith, Roxy, Zoey, Archor, Alenna, Nitro, Nitro III, Snoopy, Sheriff, Silo, Choclet Chip, Donuts, Luna, Daisy, Loo Loo, Sun Shign, Kendall, The Queen, Gina, Rogue, Salish, Athena, Gizmo, Sherri, Mojo, Star, Blue Bern, Domino, Sky and Foxy … just to name a few.
The name that won out: Keva.
Sgt. Melby explained he wanted to use the name Keva because “it is Irish Gaelic for ‘gentle, beautiful, precious, handsome and beloved.’ I just think it fits.”
The name of Keva was submitted by Zoe Mills, a first-grader at Heartland Community Schools.
On Friday morning, she was paid a visit by members of the sheriff’s department and the Henderson Police Department, as well as Keva and her handler, Deputy Chris Fifield.
The Heartland first-graders were assembled in the gym at 8:30 a.m., with no expectations as to what their impromptu assembly was about.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Vrbka, Capt. Gillespie, Sgt. Melby, Deputy Chris Fifield, Keva and Henderson Police Chief John Prusia stood ready in the front lobby in preparation for the big surprise.
“She has no idea she won the name contest,” said Mills’ mother, Portion Lyons, as she, too, waited for the announcement. “She is going to be so surprised.”
When the contingent of law enforcement officers walked into the gym, some of the first-graders exclaimed, “It’s about naming the dog!”
Sheriff Vrbka and Chief Prusia briefly spoke to the enthusiastic kids, and when Keva entered the room with Deputy Fifield, it became clear one of them was the winner.
Sgt. Melby held up the winning paper and announced that Miss Mills was the winner. He also invited her to call the dog by her new name, for the first time – which the youngster proudly did.
Why the name Keva? Zoe replied, “My dog’s name is Keva, so I thought it would be a good idea. This is so exciting! I didn’t think I’d win!”
Her fellow classmates were equally excited, as they were able to one-by-one pet Keva and offer their congratulations to Zoe.
Keva is being trained by Sgt. Melby and Deputy Fifield. When she is ready, she will join the two other county dogs, Justice and Loki, in the service field.
Sheriff Vrbka and Sgt. Melby said Keva’s journey is remarkable in itself. She was born in Ukraine, and a dog enthusiast from Omaha (who had handled service dogs during his military career) found her and arranged for her to be brought to the United States. But because of a series of COVID shutdowns, Keva came to the United States only to be returned to the Ukraine.
Eventually the man traveled to Ukraine to get her, and she’s been in the United States for about six months. The man later realized this dog needed to work because of her talent and drive. He also heard about the need for a new drug dog in York County and donated her to the department.
Melby and Vrbka say she shows a lot of promise and they are excited to have her on the force.
Now that she has been given a title and with certification likely to happen in June, her name will be added to the graphics on the outside of her cruiser, like the names of Justice and Loki are.
Video, photos: Pets gone wild of Nebraska