It Doesn’t Always Take a Human to Be a Hero


by Brittany Hall

Throughout history, many courageous canines have accompanied their owners through the worst of times. Fearlessly following their handlers into war, comforting them through sickness and heartache, running to their rescue at a moment’s notice, or loyally being of service through their devoted assistance. Dogs have demonstrated over and over their ability to save, improve, and impact humanity in countless ways and it has long been said that when you are troubled, there are things you get from the silent and devoted companionship of a dog that you can’t get from any other source.  So, imagine getting to work alongside them daily. On every mission, they’re by your side ready to ride shotgun. Then, after a hard day’s work, you get to return to the comforts of home together. Georgia State Trooper and Swainsboro native, Payton Riner, is getting to do exactly that. “I’ve accomplished two goals in life. I wanted to be a trooper and I wanted to have a K9.” Riner, who has been with the State Patrol since 2017, said with an effortless smile on his face, while keeping his eyes toward his partner. who may just be the friendliest new officer on the force. “I wouldn’t give him up for nothing. He’s my best friend.” He's speaking of K9 Bentley, who came into his life through relentless determination, and some pretty remarkable circumstances. “It’s rare that you see a trooper with a dog, but I kept aggravating them and telling them how much I wanted to be with the K9 division, so I interviewed for him in early October and was able to get him around October 30th.” Becoming a K9 handler has been a dream of his since he was a little boy. But because of the difficult process that it takes to become a handler and the fact that Georgia State Patrol rarely addresses narcotic protocols, he never deemed it possible.  “Back when I was going through the process it was a little disheartening because I was told that I’d probably never be a K9 handler with the state patrol since their primary task is not drug enforcement, but Bentley and I proved them wrong.” The two are proof that dreams do come true if you chase your calling. In Payton’s case, this is one of astounding measures, being that only 30 State troopers in the entire state of Georgia are K9 handler certified and Riner is one of those fortunate 30. “I made number 28 under 30 for the entire state of Georgia to be qualified to get a dog. Which is extremely honorable.” Riner, who started his career with the Millen Police Department, came to the Emanuel County Sheriff's Office in 2014 before becoming a State Patrol Officer. "I have a passion for drug enforcement, that’s what I really wanted to do so I got with Georgia state patrol.  I’m part of post 19 Swainsboro, but as a k9 handler I’m responsible for the whole troop F region, which is Statesboro Post, Swainsboro Post, Sylvania Post, Dublin Post, Rincon Post, and all the way down to Savannah.” When asked about Bentley's training and qualifications, Officer Riner's face lit up with excitement to explain, “We bonded for a month and a half and then we went to K9 school in Atlanta for 6 weeks. We graduated from there on January 7th.  As far as his history as a narcotics K9 though, he’s probably one of your top narcotics dogs that the Georgia State Patrol has ever had. He worked for our criminal addiction unit up in Atlanta. So, he’s seized many pounds of all different types of drugs. In fact, he’s seized over four million dollars in drugs as far as street value goes, in cash, and he’s made hundreds of felony arrests. I was told whenever I got him that I’ve got a legend of a dog." This scruffy little legend has been on the force since 2015. Working with specialty units who work alongside the DEA, GBI, FBI, and U.S. marshals. “It’s a very, very dangerous division," Riner explains, "because one day the DEA may be calling you about a vehicle that is possibly carrying many narcotics in a tractor trailer and the next day it could be that the U.S. Marshals are calling you about a murder suspect that could be headed your way and you have to go out and stop them. He was part of that division and I’m very honored to have him as my K9.” With his shiny little badge and his sweet, loving face, you would never think that Bentley held such a powerful and prestigious past and his interesting training techniques don’t end there. “Bentley is Dutch. Meaning that he responds to commands in Dutch.” Riner didn’t disclose why, but it is common for professional working dogs or performance dog trainers to use languages other than English for their cues. Sometimes it relates to the culture of their breed or sport. Whatever the reason , we love a bilingual puppy and Riner says that Bentley is becoming familiar with at least one English word a day. “A funny story, my girlfriend Abby does have him learning the English word, “No”, when she gets on to him, she uses it and says if he’s going to live here, he’s going to know the English word no. So, he does know that word.” Riner laughed as he told me. Bentley has already made an impact at home and is rapidly making a name for himself in our community. Fighting crime, one local bust at a time. “He was an essential part in the couple drug busts in Oak Park. The last big drug bust that we had in Oak Park he located absolutely every single drug that was retrieved that day.” In talking with officer Riner and K9 Bentley, it seems like K9 officers would be greatly beneficial to our law enforcement offices and when asked if there is any chance more may be added to the force in the future, officer Riner responded, “Georgia’s First Lady Marty Kemp is big on K9’s and wants to see more K9 units in law enforcement. That’s her major focus. She loves K9’s and just about knows each handler personally within the state of Georgia. She came up to me while we were at the sheriff’s banquet a couple weeks ago, wanting to see Bentley. It’s her passion. She asked the Governor; Why don’t more troopers have K9’s? To which he responded, I really don’t know. So, she was like, well you need to fix that! Payton chuckled before continuing. “So, with her guidance, we’re building the K9 division up a whole lot more within the State Patrol.” If you're wondering what Bentley does during downtime, because being a local superhero must wear you out, Riner gave me a little insight on his day-to-day schedule. “He’s not hyper, in fact he’s really calm. Most of the time at work he sleeps. I bought a tempurpedic bed for him that we keep in the back. He’s got air conditioning, water, he’s treated like royalty.” A good life for a good boy. He also says that even though he didn't get to choose Bentley for himself, he fits right into his family perfectly and if given the choice, he wouldn’t trade him for any other K9 in the world. "I was very lucky. I mean I absolutely could not ask for a better dog.” Thus proving, that it doesn’t always take a human to be a hero, and though it may sound cliché, dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend to the very end. Welcome to the community K9 Bentley! If you’re interested in meeting K9 Bentley, you can go out to the Swainsboro post or call to schedule a time to meet with him and Payton.