Dwight’s Police Dog, Katscho, will soon be replaced. He is retiring due to an inoperable tumor, according to his trainer, Dwight K9 Police Officer Watson McKee.
Dwight Administrator Kevin McNamara told The Paper last week the dog will be replaced by a new dog and the K9 programwill be continued for the village of Dwight.
The ongoing program costs $11,000 and McNamara said there are no issues funding it.
However, the Dwight Economic Alliance has chosen the Dwight Police Department Canine Program as this year’s recipient of its Fund-A-Need project with a goal of $20,000.
“The funds include the immediate need of purchasing the Dwight Police Department’s next K9 dog and the first-year costs projected for additional training, equipment, food and vetting as needed,” said Police Chief Tim Henson.
“We are fortunate that two of our communities are currently in need of K9 dogs so we have the opportunity to cost-share and alleviate some of the regular travel costs normally associated with a community securing a new K9 dog,” Henson added.
The fund-raiser will be part of the DEA Annual Auction, Feb. 24, at Station 343, Dwight.
Fund-raisers were held originally for the K9 program which helped pay for a special squad car and other equipment, ranging between $70,000 and $80,000, according to Police Chief Tim Henson.
Meantime, Katscho, a German Shepherd breed, has been a Dwight Police dog since December of 2010. After serving for all those years with honor and dedication according to members of the Dwight Police Department, he is now suffering from an inoperable carcinoma tumor in his sinus.
“I ask him if he’s OK,” McKee told The Paper. “He just barks, grabs a toy and runs to the door. Best I can tell is that he still feels fine and is in good spirits. Since his diagnosis, he has been enjoying steak frequently, strawberry ice cream — his favorite — and other assorted foods.”
McKee did not originally want to be the K9 officer.
“I had turned down Chief Henson a few times early on to become the handler, but I saw a necessity for a K9 team,” McKee said.
Speaking of need, McKee told a story of an arrest involving Katscho when 34 grams of heroin were seized which was bound for Pontiac.
“The heroin tested positive for fentanyl, a deadly narcotic added to heroin to make it more potent,” McKee explained. “That’s one instance where a drug seizure possibly saved one or several from an overdose death.”
Katscho has been deployed for (locating and following) tracks on burglaries, robberies and for a victim involved in a car accident, according to McKee.
His most frequent function is for sniffing the air on traffic stops and narcotic detection at the public schools.
“He has been involved in numerous drug arrests every year,” McKee said of Katscho.
“These arrests have reduced drug activity all throughout the county. Before an effective K9 team was on the force, needles were picked up regularly around the village. I am not aware of any needles being found out in public areas discovered by citizens since Katscho started working.”
The police dog can be used for mutual aid to other departments, but there is no funding reimbursement, according to McNamara.
The county has a K9 unit as well.
Besides acting as a member of the Dwight Police force, Katscho’s pack, Katscho also helped McKee become a better police officer.
“Katscho has gotten me knowledge, experience, training, into situations and exposed me to activity I may never have had in my career,” McKee said. “One month with Katscho gave me more than (the) four years of military law enforcement did.”
As part of McKee’s training, he spent six weeks initially with classroom based education, plus practical training and exercises.
After certification, “we performed daily training, formal monthly training and annual certification throughout his (Katscho’s) career,” McKee said.
McKee described Katscho as very “poised” and his personality changed to all business when it was time to work.
But sometimes the job involved some funny moments.
“Katscho enjoys waiting until people get right next to the squad (car) then barks at them, giving them a scare,” McKee said. “People usually have a good sense of humor and laugh along with the other officers and me.”
Officer McKee will miss Katscho deeply.
“I’m proud to have had the opportunity to be his handler,” McKee said. “Katscho has been treated with love, respect and cared for better than most pets because he means so much to me. He’s not just a police dog. I will miss everything about Katscho.”