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Leader dog 'Gundy' named for DL cop

SGT. GUNDERSON was named for DL police officer LeRoy Gunderson.1 / 2
Shirley Gunderson, from left, Pauline Ulrey, and Linda Wiedewitsch with Gundy the leader dog.2 / 2

When LeRoy Gunderson was alive, he worked for the Detroit Lakes Police Department to serve and protect, and he did it with a big heart, the same way he took on the rest of life.

And that's just how his namesake, Sergeant Gunderson, better known as Gundy, serves and protects Pauline Ulrey, his companion.

Gundy serves as a leader dog for Ulrey, of Indianapolis. She has used a dog to see for her since age 6, and Gundy is now the eighth dog she's had in 48 years.

Gundy is also the No. 8 dog that Linda Wiedewitsch raised for the Leader Dog program. She's now on her 14th or 15th dog, she said.

When Wiedewitsch worked for the Detroit Lakes Police Department, she worked under Gunderson, noting his likability. When he passed away, she said she asked the family if she could name a guide dog after Gunderson. They agreed.

"He was very community minded. He always helped out the underdog," she said. "Gundy left a very big footprint on the community."

Wiedewitsch said Gundy was by far the easiest of all the service dogs she's raised, and he excelled at everything put before him.

"It was like he almost knew from the beginning what he was supposed to do," she said.

At age four and a half months, he got a perfect score on the Good Canine Citizen test. (They usually don't test dogs younger than 6 months.)

"That's my boy," Ulrey said proudly.

"Obviously he hasn't missed a step since," Wiedewitsch said.

Ulrey will have had Gundy for four years in November, and she said guide dogs usually work about eight to 10 years.

Wiedewitsch and her daughter visited Ulrey and Gundy once in that four years at a convention in Austin, Texas, and last week, Ulrey was in Detroit Lakes for the National Dog Trials to man the Lions booth.

The Lions Club is a big supporter of the Leader Dog program.

Ulrey and Wiedewitsch said that when they went to the Wiedewitsch farm to visit last week, Gundy knew right where everything was. Wiedewitsch said he came in the house and went right to the laundry room to get a drink from the dog dish.

"His memory is a thousand times better than mine," Ulrey said with a laugh.

"He doesn't know he's a dog, and I'm not going to tell him," she added.

After Wiedewitsch asked the Gunderson family if she could name a dog after her sergeant and they agreed, Wiedewitsch gave the family a picture of Gundy.

"The picture doesn't do him justice," Shirley Gunderson said last week when she met Ulrey and Gundy for the first time. "I'm so glad I got to see him."

"He's as gentle as he is big," Ulrey said.

While the three women sat around and shared stories about Gundy and his namesake, Gundy dozed at Ulrey's feet. But, he always kept his paw touching her shoe to make sure she didn't make any movement that might require his attention. Something, she said, he does all the time.

"He keeps very close tabs on her," Wiedewitsch said.

Since Ulrey is a field representative for the Leader Dog program, she does a lot of traveling. Therefore, Gundy does a lot of traveling as well. She said he's traveled in cars, buses, planes and trains. "He's hit most of them," she said.

And while it's important that Gundy helps Ulrey see what she's not able to, the most important thing for her, she said, is his companionship.

"I won't ever be without one," she said of a guide dog. "Mental and confidence wise, he let's me do anything I want to."

Gunderson said she can see the common bond between Ulrey and Gundy, taking care of each other.

"There are not words available..." Ulrey started.

"...For what they can do for you," Gunderson finished.