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Spleen tumor takes life of K9 Macho

Macho the K9 dog and his owner, Detroit Lakes Police Sgt. Robert Strand, in September of 2011. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Detroit Lakes is saying goodbye to one of its favorite heroes.

Macho, the city’s only K9 police dog, was put to sleep Tuesday night after a tumor was discovered in his spleen.

After being incredibly sick for a couple of days, owner Detroit Lakes Police Sergeant Robert Strand says it was the only good decision for the 10-year-old German Shepherd.

“He was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t want to see him suffer anymore,” said Strand, who began working with the K9 six and a half years ago.

Macho lived and worked with Strand, who says it’s tough going home when he knows the kennel is empty.

“He loved to go to work,” said Strand, who says Macho was always waiting at the squad car door in the morning to hop in.

“Even on our days off he’d be out there waiting like ‘OK, let’s go’, and I’d tell him, ‘Nah, we don’t have to do that today,’” said Strand, who says when the K9 was retired this past summer due to age, it was tough on both him and Macho.

“It drove him nuts seeing me leave in my uniform without him.”

Strand says the thing he loved the most about Macho was his ability to switch his mannerisms off and on depending on whether he was at home or on the job.

“At home he loved when my kids played with him.  They’d be laying all over him … he was so laid back,” said Strand. “But then the second he hopped in the squad car he was ready and he would bark at anybody. He knew the difference between being at home and being at work.”

Although his senses may have seemed to be heightened while on the job, Strand says he’ll miss how even when his dog would “hang out” with other people in the family, Macho always had an eye on Strand.

“He always paid attention to what I was doing or would watch where I was going,” said Strand, who says he knew Macho had his back, on and off the job.

The bond an officer creates with his K9 partner is no doubt strong, but he also knows Macho was loved just about everywhere he went.

“Anytime we went into a classroom kids were always excited to see him, and he was so laid back he’d let anybody come up and pet him,” said Strand. “I never heard him growl at anybody.”

But criminal suspects trying to escape capture would certainly see the “all business” side of Macho, as he was trained to track down and apprehend — by clamping down with his teeth — anyone Strand would tell him to.

“Working with a dog is the most effective and efficient way to work in this field I think,” said Strand.  “He can find stuff a lot faster, and you’re taking an officer out of harm’s way.”

Strand said although Macho was deployed into potentially dangerous situations, there were only a couple of times when somebody tried to hurt him.

“And that didn’t fare well for them,” he laughed, saying when Macho was “on” and found drugs or even a perpetrator, it was the most rewarding experience for them both.

Although Strand and Macho never came home with any trophies in the K9 competitions they participated in, he says that never mattered to him.

“I cared a lot more about having a good working dog than a trophy dog, and he did his job well,” said Strand, who says he’s most touched by how the community supported Macho and the program that allowed Strand the opportunity to have his K9 partner.

“It’s nice to work for a community that backs you — it says a lot and it means a lot,” said Strand, who says he gets a lot of people asking if the department will get another K9 anytime soon.

And although he’d like to see that happen, he also knows the situation has to be right.

Because Strand has been promoted to management, he says he won’t have the time to continually train with another dog.

“And we have some younger guys in the department, but having a K9 takes a lot of time and commitment and can take a toll on your home life,” said Strand, “so it has to be something that an officer is willing to take on.”

In the meantime, the Detroit Lakes Police Department will go on without its loyal companion.

Macho is being cremated and his ashes will sit in Strand’s office at work next to his first K9, Chase.