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DL Police K9 dog Macho hangs up his leash

Macho sits next to his squad car in this file photo. He will retire from taking a bite out of crime and enjoy being the family dog of his handler, Sgt. Robert Strand. BRIAN BASHAM/RECORD

Since 2004, Detroit Lakes Police Sgt. Robert Strand has had a four-legged companion on patrol.

In 2004, Strand went through training to become a K-9 officer, accompanied by his furry new partner, Chase.

But in 2006, Chase became sick and passed away. A few months later, in January 2007, Strand received a new K-9 partner, Macho, who has been with him ever since.

As of this past Thursday, however, Strand has been going it alone — this time for a much happier reason. Macho, who celebrated his 10th birthday this year, is now officially retired.

“We were going to retire him at the end of the year,” Strand said, but because he and Macho would have had to go through their annual certification process this summer, “it just made more sense to retire him now.”

It’s not a question of health.

“He’s not sick,” Strand said, noting that Macho is still quite capable of handling the testing that is necessary for the recertification process. “He maybe has a little arthritis, but that’s all.”

In other words, the only ailments Macho is suffering from are those that are part of the natural aging process. And just like any police officer at the end of his career, he’s begun the transition back to civilian life, in his new role as the Strand family pet.

Not that he’s entirely happy about it.

“He was spinning around in his kennel this morning when he saw me getting into the squad car,” Strand said of Macho’s reaction to his first morning of retirement. “Being left behind — he really didn’t like that at all.

“Unfortunately, the one thing he truly loved to do is to get in that car and ride around with me. They (dogs) do like their routines.”

Now, Macho is just going to have to learn how to “enjoy the summer and just being a pet,” Strand added. “He should be fine with it, it’s just a matter of getting used to (his new role).”

Strand admits that the transition is going to be difficult for him as well.

“To have that resource there at the push of a button was a nice feeling,” he said. “You tend to take a little more risk (with a K-9 companion) than when you’re by yourself.”

Also, Strand added, he’s going to miss hearing Macho’s bark.

“He sat right behind me in the car,” Strand said. “When someone approached the car, or got in, he’d bark, and when the lights would come on, he’d start whining.

“I knew it was coming, but it’s still a little hard to get used to,” he added. “I caught myself driving to the park this morning (where he would take Macho for a run before work).”

But hopefully, the fact that Macho won’t see that squad car parked in front of the house anymore will help with the transition a little bit.

“Now that he’s not working active duty I don’t get a take-home car anymore,” Strand said. “Maybe not seeing it there anymore will make (the adjustment) a little easier for him. I hope so.”

The DLPD is going through a bit of a transition with Macho’s retirement as well. According to Chief Tim Eggebraaten, the department is discontinuing the K-9 program “for the time being.”

The reasoning is simple: “At the present time we don’t have any officers who are qualified to do it, and want to do it,” Eggebraaten said, noting that there was one officer who had expressed interest, but he was still under probationary employment with the department, and therefore did not qualify at the present time.

“It’s a lot of extra work,” Eggebraaten said, citing a potential reason for the lack of interest — and he would know, from personal experience.

Eggebraaten served as the department’s K-9 officer from 1996 to 2003, along with his four-legged partner, Quincy.

“That was probably the best seven years of my career so far,” Eggebraaten said. “He (Quincy) worked pretty much up until the day he died.  We had anticipated retiring him at the end of that year, but he got sick and we had to put him to sleep.”

Eggebraaten did not rule out the possibility of reinstating the K-9 program in the future.

“If someone steps forward and shows an interest in it, has the desire to follow through and is qualified to do it, we’ll revisit it,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding assignment.”

Strand agreed with that assessment, noting that he has many fond memories of working with Macho — including one unforgettable moment when the dog pulled a domestic assault suspect out from where he was hiding, by the seat of his pants.

He also has several memories of sending Macho out into a corn field, or into the woods, in pursuit of a suspect — and hearing the screams when the dog found them.

“They’re trained to bite and not let go until they’re called off,” Strand explained.

But at the same time, he added, “Macho only does that when he’s told to do so.”

The only exception would be if they were in a situation where Macho felt Strand was being threatened.

“He protects me,” Strand said. “He’s awesome — a really good dog.”

Strand noted that, personality-wise, Macho is “more laid back” than his predecessor Chase.

“He’s very social. My kids can play with him and lay on him and when he’s sick of them, he’ll just walk away and go into his kennel.”

When his family is having a campfire, Chase will either lie down directly behind Strand, or across the fire from where he’s sitting.

“Once in a while he might make the rounds to be petted — but he always knows where I’m at,” Strand added. “He protects me.”

And even though Macho might be retired now, that’s not going to change.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454