ROGERS CITY – A friendly dog popular with kids from Rogers City will soon be heading to the state to learn how to help police find missing people and crack down on drug crimes.
The Almost Isle County Board of Commissioners on Friday agreed to add the dog to the county’s police force, with training costs to be covered by tax revenue from local marijuana facilities.
Kilo, a German Shepherd owned by Sgt. David Whitford of the Près Isle County Sheriff’s Office has found many friends among school children who regularly visit the mischievous dog over Whitford’s backyard fence.
The dog will continue to frolic with the children of the community, but soon he will have a new job: fighting crime with his nose.
Despite being a rural area, the county has plenty to keep the dog busy, as evidenced by the drug dealing of the seven people currently being held in the county jail on drug charges, including those of operating meth drug houses, Whitford said.
“We’re a pretty isolated little community,” Whitford said, “but we still get everything cities get here.”
Whitford first offered to train his dog for police work when Rogers Township Council said it wanted to use tax revenue from the township’s three cannabis facilities – two grow operations and a store in medical and adult use – to strengthen drug law enforcement.
When Whitford suggested funding a police dog, “They were like, ‘Absolutely,'” Whitford said.
The funds would not have covered the cost of buying a dog, but Whitford already owned the 2-year-old East German Shepherd, a breed often used for police work and bred to be bigger, stronger and faster than other shepherds.
Kilo has police work in his blood, with a father in the police force in another county and a retired drug dog as his mother.
The dog will spend about two months in the upstate, learning how to alert the police to the presence of drugs and follow a missing person or help an officer find a suspect on the run.
Whitford will travel south about once a week to follow Kilo’s training and learn how to serve as his handler.
Kilo will not be trained to attack or apprehend, so Whitford can take him to schools when he presents DARE programs locally.
The dog will be family property during off hours but will be considered county property while on duty, at least until retirement when it becomes a pet again.
Until then, the dog’s services will provide the help needed, especially in an area where, Whitford said, too many people are missing and untraceable.
Few police departments in northern Michigan have police dogs. So when officers need the services of a dog, they sometimes have to call one hours away.
Even the canine members of Alpena County Search and Rescue are far enough apart that police have to wait for their arrival when minutes count.
“Having him in the back yard would be very beneficial,” Whitford said, patting his dog on the head.