- Associated Press - Saturday, January 16, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Howard County Deputy Steve Kline said if there’s one thing he’s learned about his police dog partner Mac, it’s this: He loves his job.

“Mac is a social dog, but he’s not the kind of dog to go up to someone and beg for attention,” Kline said. “He’s work focused. That’s what the wants to do. He wants to work. That was how he was when I first got him, and he’s stayed like that.”

For the last eight years, the 11-year-old Belgian Malinois has worked beside Kline as an explosive-detecting and protection dog.

But now, Mac is set to get some rest and relaxation. Last week, he officially retired from the Howard County Sheriff’s Department.

Kline said it was ultimately his decision to recommend Mac step down from his post, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

After all, the two have worked together every day for the last eight years patrolling the roads and responding to emergencies. When they weren’t working together, they were living together at Kline’s house.

But at 11 years old, Mac had started to slow down. Kline said his response time and agility were beginning to drag, and he just wasn’t as fast as he used to be.

“It’s hard,” he said. “He’s my first dog. You hate to see him get older, but that’s part of life, I guess. Even at his age, he still has that drive to work. But physically, you could tell he was slowing down. Everybody does when they get older.”

Kline said he remembers the first day he and Mac worked together more than eight years ago, because it was a day when one of his lifelong dreams came true.

He said he always knew he wanted to be in law enforcement. More specifically, Kline said, he always knew he wanted to be a K-9 handler.

So when he found out he would be Mac’s new partner, he was floored.

“I was excited, but at the same time a little nervous,” Kline said. “But who wouldn’t be in a new position like that, especially handling a police dog?”

The two quickly got used to each other, though, and after working day-in and day-out together, they became close friends.

Kline said he liked having Mac as a partner. Not only was the dog good at his job, but he gave Kline a real sense of security.

“Every day, we’d get in the vehicle together and off we’d go,” he said. “He was my back up and my partner, and I felt very safe and secure with him.”

Together, the two patrolled the roads of Howard County, and were dispatched to incidents in which deputies suspected there might be explosives or needed Mac to track someone.

Kline said one of the most memorable experiences they shared was working with the Secret Service to secure a Chrysler plant in Kokomo before President Barack Obama gave a speech there in 2010.

He and Mac were in charge of the leading the explosive police dog units to make sure there weren’t any bombs in the building. Then they stuck around for security patrol during Obama’s talk.

“It was pretty neat,” Kline said. “We didn’t get to meet the president, but we saw him up close and personal.”

Mac didn’t find a bomb during that incident, and as it turned out, he never was dispatched to a scene where there really was an explosive, Kline said.

“In my eyes, that’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you hope you never do, but it’s good to have that tool available just in case. It’s so much easier to search for a bomb with a dog.”

Although Mac was trained as a bomb-sniffing dog, his biggest role was deterring people from becoming violent or trying to flee when they were called to an active crime scene, Kline said.

“People have given up because of Mac,” he said. “They hear him barking in my squad vehicle, and they change their mind about doing something. You hear a dog barking like that, and you don’t want to mess with him.”

It’s been a little over a week now since Mac retired, and it’s something he’s still getting used to, Kline said. With such a strong work ethic, he hasn’t given up on trying to jump in the squad car every day.

“I’m getting my uniform on and getting my bag to put it in the car, and he’s just sitting by the front door looking at me,” Kline said. “That first day it was really hard. It was hard going to work without him.”

But, he said, Mac is slowly getting used to the idea. After all, he’s got a pretty comfortable set up at Kline’s house, which is now his permanent retirement home.

“My wife and two children spoil him rotten, so I think he’s slipping into the good-house life,” Kline said with a laugh. “He’s here taking it easy.”

Kline said he’s now in the process of picking out a new bomb-sniffing dog partner to replace Mac. The two will have to go through a six-week training course together, and then the dog will be qualified to serve in the department.

Kline said he definitely misses Mac riding with him, but he’s also looking forward to working with his new police dog partner, which will also be a Belgian Malinois.

But looking back on their time together, Kline said, he couldn’t imagine having a better friend and partner than Mac.

“I wouldn’t change him for the world,” he said. “Mac is a phenomenal dog.”


Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/1RCXUTL


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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