By Brandi Makuski
Plover police this week announced they’ve been forced to retire their first K-9 dog, Ice, from active duty.
Police Chief Dan Ault said Ice is in good physical health, but her handler/partner, Ofc. Seth Pionke, reported some behavioral problems with the dog he wasn’t able to correct.
“We sent the dog, and Seth, to two different K-9 specialists; one in Illinois and another in Michigan, and they independently came to the same conclusion,” Ault said. “Ice just isn’t cut out to be a police dog.”
The dog was donated to PPD by Haus Von Stolz Kennels in Lomira, Wis., last year when she was just a puppy. Based on the kennel’s advice, the dept. believed the dog would be easier to mold into a crime-fighting machine because they started working with her at such a young age.
That wasn’t the case.
“We just weren’t seeing the results we needed,” Pionke said. “She got a little bit better, but it was so much work on our part to see just a little bit of progress.”
“We kept thinking maybe it was just a maturity thing, that she’d outgrow it,” Ault said. “That’s certainly what the kennel kept telling us.”
Haus Von Stolz has since gone out of business, Ault said.
Pionke said while the dog’s drug detection work was “spot on”, he began to notice deficiencies in her attention span after participating in joint training exercises with other K-9 units. After consulting with police K-9 experts independently, Ault said he learned “it wasn’t all that uncommon” for dogs to be taken off duty for personality or maturity quirks.
But that didn’t mean it was an easy decision for the department.
“It was really a shock to me,” Ault said. “I hadn’t embraced the possibility she didn’t possess the qualities of a proper K-9. But just like any employee of the department, sometimes they don’t work out.”
Technically property of the Plover Police Dept., Ice was sold to Pionke for a dollar; a contingency written into the department’s K-9 contract to address such an issue. But Pionke won’t be able to keep her, as he’ll soon take possession of a new police dog, and has since placed Ice in a “forever home” with a close family friend.
“I still get to see her all the time, so that’s great,” Pionke said. “But you can see it in her behavior now — her stress is just gone; now she can just be a regular dog. That’s how I know this was the right choice. This is the best possible outcome.”
A new dog has been matched with the department by FMK9 in Berrien Center, Mich., which has over 20 years of experience in the field. Ault said the new dog has already been trained and certified by professionals at the kennel, and should be ready to meet the community in late August.
Pionke departed for the kennel on Sunday, and will spend the next few weeks training and bonding with his new partner.
The new dog will cost the department about $7,000; funds that come from drug forfeiture money, seized in part by Ice herself. Food and veterinary services will continue to donated by local businesses, Pionke said.
“This is a little bit of a setback, but I see it as a bigger step forward,” Ault said. “We identified the problems pretty quick, we gave it due time to try and work things out, but not every dog is cut out for police work.”
“I’ve heard it said that K-9 dogs aren’t normal dogs — they have a screw loose,” he said, chuckling.
“But they have the right screw loose; Ice just didn’t have that,” Pionke said. “But she makes a great house dog, a pet.”