'K-9s for Cops' launches; Rhinelander police to get first dog

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RHINELANDER / KRONENWETTER, Wis. (WSAW) -- Few people in northcentral Wisconsin can forget the Rothschild shooting in March of 2017, when Everest Metro Detective Jason Weiland and three other victims lost their lives. Honoring his memory is the focus of the "K-9 for Cops" donation program launched Monday by Crossroads K-9 Rescue, which will provide police departments in Wisconsin with a complete K-9 outfit: a fully-trained dog, car, equipment and resources.

The program will honor Det. Weiland’s sacrifice in a way only a police dog can. More than that, the first dog will share both Jason’s name and his badge number: 1274.

“When you spoke to Jason, it was always about, ‘Let’s do something,’ ‘Let’s get these drugs off the street,’ ‘Let’s help somebody,’” said K-9 for Cops program trainer Sean Dumais. “And I think a dog really personifies that. A dog’s always excited to go to work; always excited to do its job.”

The Rhinelander Police Department has been selected as the recipient for the first dog.

“It’s really honoring for us to be involved in such a great opportunity to bring something out of tragedy,” reflected Rhinelander police chief Lloyd Gauthier.

Rhinelander was chosen largely because of Gauthier’s perspective toward using K-9s in the community, one that Dumais says he feels is shared by the department as a whole. Rather than focusing solely on using K-9s to bust drug abusers, Gauthier sees them as a means of discovering the families in the community that need resources to combat narcotic abuse.

“For us, having a K-9 is more than just having a dog,” he said. “[It] gives us the ability to get involved with people’s lives.”

Gauthier explained that people who use drugs frequently make decisions that cut them off from their family and friends, leaving children to fend for and raise themselves.

By using K-9s to lead officers to drug abusers and by extension their families, Gauthier hopes his department can get much-needed help to their dependents. “Maybe these kids in these homes will have some sense of normalcy,” he said.

“That’s my passion as an agency, and why K-9s are important,” he explained. “Children are a passion for us to protect, and we do whatever we can to help them.”

“The whole department just has that same philosophy: that they’re really there for the community,” Dumais said, adding that it was that quality that set them apart from other departments.

Rhinelander's police department currently has a dayshift K-9 named Odin; the coming dog will be assigned to the nightshift. Gauthier says they'd planned on getting a second dog, but didn't dream it would come so quickly.

The program kickstarts Monday, but Dumais has been collecting community support for it since November. “We’ve had a pretty good response so far,” he said, with a number of community members looking to pitch in food and supplies.

He plans to hold several major fundraising events this year, building the outfit needed to provide Rhinelander with the dog sometime this fall or early winter. He’s chosen a Florida kennel raising Belgian Malinois puppies for the first dog, and he expects the puppy will make the trip up to Wisconsin in just a couple months.

Dumais’s future plans for the program include providing one fully-trained dog a year, plus a car and equipment, to police departments around the state that need one. He himself, an Iraq war veteran, has a long history in training police dogs, having trained dozens in the past—including K-9s used by the Los Angeles police and fire departments.

For Dumais, nothing highlights the need more than the K-9 officer killed in the line of duty on Sunday in Duluth, Minnesota. He sees violence towards law enforcement as a big reason for helping officers: both human and K-9.

For more information on the program, check their website here.