Two new members of the Missoula County Sheriff's department arrived over the weekend, but they weren't in uniform, they're the county's newest K-9 officers. German Shepherds Loki and Santxo.

Public Information Officer Brenda Bassett said two deputies spent several weeks getting to know their new partners at a training facility in North Carolina.

"It's important to remember that these are still very young dogs, both are just a little over a year-old," Bassett said. "They're being trained to track suspects, to find drugs, and the art of patrolling with their handlers. It usually takes about two years to get a dog to where they're really ready to go and on point."

Bassett said two deputies were chosen from a number of volunteers to partner with the dogs, Ross Jessop and Justin Uriarte.

"The handlers are bonding with the dogs, so it's a very important time for them to learn to work together, and we'll have all kinds of training opportunities throughout the year," she said. "We're getting them into the deputies' homes and getting them acclimated to being a part of the department."

Bassett said the sheriff's office has modified a patrol vehicle to accommodate the K-9's.

"The administration is working on getting the vehicle they'll be patrolling in finished up," she said. "If the car hits a certain temperature inside, the fans inside the vehicle will start going and an officer will be sent a notification so the dogs will never be left inside a hot vehicle. The cars and the officers will all be set up to work with the dogs, so during that two-week time, the K-9's and handlers will be undergoing two more weeks of training."

Bassett said it's important for the public to understand that Loki and Santxo are working dogs, and should be approached with care.

"They're not the typical pet you would have a home, and although they'll be staying with the handlers in their homes, it's important for the public to know they're working dogs. They're not dangerous, but when they're out and about they're working. They're very high energy dogs, so when they're working, they're pretty focused."