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A K9 and his cop

THIS IS MACHO'S NORMAL POSITION whenever the garage door is open, Strand said. Macho loves to work.1 / 4
The Regional Police Dog Trials were held in Woodbury in June.3 / 4
Strand and Macho received a score of 109 out of a possible 110 to advance to the National Police Dog Trials in Detroit Lakes Sept. 18-23.4 / 4

One of the hardest working men on the Detroit Lakes Police Department finds and chases down criminals, sniffs out drugs, is a fantastic partner and does it all for a dish of dog food.

Macho has been the Detroit Lakes Police dog for about six years and partner Sgt. Robert Strand has been the dog handler for the department since 2004.

Strand said Macho is a great partner and he loves watching the dog work.

"You may not see him, but you can hear him," Strand said. "And when it gets quiet, a few seconds later, you're going to hear a scream because he's on to something."

Strand vividly recalls Macho's first bite on the job, when the police had some cabin burglars on the run on a field and swamp area near Lake Melissa.

"I get in the cornfield, I'm like, 'this is nuts,' cause you're sitting out there all by yourself. They can see you before you can see them," Strand said.

Call in some backup and Macho.

The cops walked the edge of the field looking for footprints as Macho took off into the woods, Strand said.

You could hear him. And all of a sudden he comes running out from behind us and squared up to the shelterbelt and in he went," Strand said. "Oh god. It's either a skunk or a deer."

A deputy asked Strand if he was going to go in after the dog, to which he said, "No. He'll come out if there's nobody in there.

Five seconds after I got done saying that, you could hear the screams coming from the woods."

The police arrested two of the burglars that night, Strand said.

"(Macho) had the one by the arm and the other one was curled up like a baby right next to him and didn't want to move," Strand said.

Strand said that first chase taught Macho an important lesson -- he had to work hard for his reward at the end.

"We searched for an hour and a half," Strand said. "That's helped him later in his career."

Strand is currently juggling a new supervisor role in the department with being the dog handler.

"One thing I've learned since I've been promoted is being the supervisor and the K9 handler is a lot of work," he said.

But the two partners still find time to train for trials, sometimes on the job, sometimes off.

"So you train when you can and obviously, when competition or certification comes up, you train a little harder," Strand said. "If he wasn't finding bad guys out on the street, I might be working him a little harder, but he has no problem doing that."

The partners try to attend trials, which involve six categories of competition -- obedience, agility, evidence search, suspect search, criminal apprehension and criminal apprehension with gunfire -- once a year, but that doesn't always happen.

The two trialed in Woodbury, Minn., this June and qualified for the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) National Trials, being held in Detroit Lakes Sept. 18-23, a first for the partners.

I was really surprised about (qualifying for nationals)," Strand said. "But I'm not a trophy hunter. I'm not a trophy guy. I'm more in it for the certification."

According to Strand, Macho's competitive days are getting behind him and he hopes the dog can serve the police department for several more years before finally retiring.

Trials like the USPCA, involve an agility course among the other categories. Strand speculated this would be their final trials because of the agility portion of the trials and Macho's age.

"He's eight and I'm not going to let a back injury knock him out," Strand said. "It's just not worth it."

Strand said he loves working with Macho, and having a dog for a partner is very satisfying.

"It's nice to find bad guys. It's nice that they can help get you out of a jam if you're outnumbered," Strand said.