Deputy James P. Franze, of the Adam County Sheriff's Department, graduated with his third dog Friday during the department's basic K-9 academy graduation.
The Allen County Court House rotunda was filled with friends and family of the graduating class who were silent as Franze spoke of the bond between a dog and its officer. His emotions were a little raw, not only because he was remembering his two previous four-legged partners but because of the recent news from southern Indiana of a man who was jailed after shooting an Indiana State Police K-9 dog, Kilo, and wounding an officer. According to The Associated Press, there had been a standoff in Sellersburg. A SWAT team had fired tear gas into the house to force the man out after negotiations had failed. The man had fled into another house and fired at officers and the police dog followed him. Police said the man killed the dog and later wounded one of the officers in the leg.
“All good puppies go to heaven.” Franze said.
Franze, a 15-year veteran of K-9 handling, said his thoughts and prayers were with that officer and his family.
Franze said after the ceremony Kilo died doing what he was trained to do. Franze's two previous dogs had less violent passings. His first dog developed blindness after a traffic accident and his most recent canine partner lived to age 12 when he developed hip dysplasia and eventually had to be put down.
Robert Compton, master trainer for the Allen County Sheriff's Department, said before the ceremony he was glad it would be a memorial for a K-9 he was attending instead of a funeral for an officer. Kilo saved the lives of the officers by locating the suspect, he said.
Compton said the dogs and their handlers went through a rigorous 14-week training program. The program is very demanding on both dogs and their handlers and runs at least 8 hours a day, and sometimes more. One dog in the program washed out; it's not for every dog. The dogs they use are bred for this type of work and are imported from Europe.
FWPD Police Officer Kevin J. Neher's new dog is a Czech Shepherd. Neher said Ranger is bigger and woollier than the dogs in the States. He is Neher's first dog. Neher, a dog lover, has been on the FWPD for five and a half years and said becoming a K-9 officer just seemed like the next step in his career. He likes the idea of being able to take a dog to work with him.
Four canine officers graduated Friday: Neher, with Ranger; Deputy Douglas J. Weaver, with K-9 Andy, of the Wabash County Sheriff's Department, Franze, with K-9 Kaja; and Cpl. Sean L. Miller, with K-9 Miky, of the Auburn Police Department.