Sheriff’s department hosts K-9 trainingThe Government Center went to the dogs Thursday. K-9 units from a number of counties, including Eau Claire, St. Croix and St. Louis, gathered for a three-day training session focused on tactical obedience and criminal apprehension.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The Government Center went to the dogs Thursday.
K-9 units from a number of counties, including Eau Claire, St. Croix and St. Louis, gathered for a three-day training session focused on tactical obedience and criminal apprehension. Trainer Tony Pallotta brought with him the newest member of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, a pup named Koba. The five-month-old Malinois from Toronto, Canada, will partner with Deputy Brian Witt.
The department’s last canine, Fero, retired last April.
“It was sad to lose Fero,” said Deputy Michelle Fritz, but they are excited to get a new dog.
Koba is not a finished canine like Fero was. Witt, who was in a K-9 unit for eight years in Marinette County, plans to do a lot of the early training himself this time.
“We’ll spend our time and money to mold him for what we want for this area,” Witt said. That will include tracking and drug sniffing.
Witt searched a long time to find the right dog, one with plenty of energy that knows when to turn off the enthusiasm and calmly obey.
Pallotta, head trainer with Working K9, held one of the Malinois from his own litter. He and Witt worked with Koba Thursday, training the pup on bite techniques, while other handlers watched. The K-9 units will train in Duluth on Friday and Solon Springs on Saturday.
As when Fero was purchased in 2003, community donations brought Koba to Douglas County. Sheriff Tom Dalbec said that AMSOIL Inc., in particular, was a big donor to the new K-9 Unit Trust Fund.
“Al Amatuzio himself is a huge dog lover,” the sheriff said of the AMSOIL founder.
Other contributions to the fund, which was set up in July, came from businesses, churches, individuals and even the village of Lake Nebagamon. Marlee’s Caribbean Restaurant held a fundraiser for the K-9 unit, collecting $1,000.
“Those donations helped purchase the dog and are helping boost the K-9 program,” Witt said. Funds will pay for equipment, training and maybe more sessions like the one this weekend. By working together, Witt said, K-9 handlers build a supportive network.
Fero proved to be a valuable asset to Douglas County. The German shepherd sniffed for drugs, assisted with traffic stops, searched buildings and tracked both suspects and missing persons in all kinds of weather. The dog and his partner, Cory Knutson, were also tapped for crowd control.
“It was different to work with that kind of resource,” Fritz said. She recalled one night when fights were breaking out around a downtown nightclub. She and a city officer took the back of the building. Suddenly, the rowdy crowd melted away. Fritz turned and saw Fero behind them.
“He stopped a lot of ridiculous before it happened,” she said.
Yet as a raw recruit, the dog had a gentle side. Fritz remembers the new K-9 unit marching in the Fourth of July parade. A small, curly-headed child ran out of the crowd and threw both arms around Fero. The spazzy, energetic dog stood still, accepted the hug and gave the child a lick on the cheek.
“They are not attack dogs, that’s not what they do,” Fritz said. “The do what they’re told to do.”
The department hopes to make the K-9 program self-sustaining by collecting a portion of the money made when cars, homes or other property seized during drug searches is sold. Donations, too, are always welcome.
Superior Animal Hospital and Boarding Suites will provide basic veterinary services for Koba, as they did for Fero. Once again, Dan’s Feed Bill will provide free food. But a new kennel will need to be purchased. The old one fit in a Crown Victoria; the department has since moved to Dodge Chargers.
Dalbec said the ultimate goal is to have two dogs on the department, staggered, so that when one retires there is still a K-9 unit available.
“We don’t want it to happen again where we don’t have a dog,” Fritz said.
Donations to the K-9 Unit Trust Fund Donations are tax deductible. They can be mailed to the Douglas County Treasurer, 1313 Belknap St., Superior, WI 54880. Donors should write “K-9 Unit Trust Fund” on the memo line.