Created on Friday, 14 December 2012 Written by REUBEN MEES
Community meets BPD’s new police dog
City youths pet Arco, the Bellefontaine Police Department’s newest police dog, during a Thursday evening event to meet the public at the Bellefontaine Municipal Building as his handler, Officer Chris Marlow answers questions from the crowd. Arco was paid for with $14,000 in community donations after Officer Marlow’s previous canine partner Benno died unexpectedly from a stomach illness on Sept. 7. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)
It took the generosity of a community coming together to make it happen, but Bellefontaine Police Department’s canine unit has barely missed a beat since the unexpected passing of one of its own.
Thursday evening, canine handler Officer Chris Marlow and Police Chief Brandon Standley publicly introduced Arco, a new Belgian Malinois who will replace Benno who died Sept. 7 of a stomach illness.
“The unexpected loss of Benno caught our department off guard, but with your support we were able to act sooner than later to get the pick of the litter,” Chief Standley told a crowd of donors during the reception event.
Within days of Benno’s death — and largely due to a $5,000 donation from Citizens Federal Savings and Loan — the department had arranged for professional dog trainer Dan Bowman to select a suitable police dog on the trip he was about to take to Holland to buy police dogs for several Ohio law enforcement agencies.
Officer Marlow was the first handler to arrive after the dogs were returned to the United States, and as the only assistant in their 11-week training, was able to assess which one of the 10 brought back by Mr. Bowman would best fit the community’s needs.
“I can’t count the number of tracks I laid or the number of bites I took to get these dogs ready for when the other handlers arrived,” Officer Marlow said.
The total cost of the dog, its training and Officer Marlow’s training and accommodations while assisting in the training amounted to about $14,000 — all of which was covered by donations from 26 local businesses and individuals, Chief Standley said.
“It’s just amazing the outpouring of support we got from the community and the product is going to be obvious,” the chief said. “For me, Chris and Scott Stewart, our other handler, you just can’t put a price tag on what they do. These dogs are trained in a way that is very, very valuable and their senses are far better than ours.”
Officer Marlow went on to explain that Arco, now 19 months old, and the other dogs were trained to track suspects who have fled, do area sweeps for hiding suspects, conduct building searches and locate narcotics. Some of the main drugs they can identify are marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, he said, noting that police canines visualize the task of searching for drugs like a game.
“He doesn’t know what marijuana or cocaine are, but he knows what they smell like,” Officer Marlow told the crowd gathered in Bellefontaine City Council chambers. “They smell like his toys and he is basically looking for his toys.”
But while initial fundraising to finance the police dog’s purchase and training is complete, additional expenses still could be worthwhile expenditures if community residents wish to donate further, Chief Standley said.
“The donations covered the cost of the dog and the training, but there are always other expenses,” he said.
Monthly food bills average about $45 per bag, while regular heartworm and flea and tick treatments are also required. Software valued at $250 that would help track Arco’s interactions with humans would be useful to make him a more valuable tool in court cases, and a bullet-resistant vest are also among some expenses the department is considering.
Local veterinarian Matt Verbsky donates his services in seeing not only Arco, but Officer Stewart’s police dog, Toby.
In the near future, however, Toby, who is now 7 years old, may retire along with Officer Stewart. Toby and Arco are the only two police dogs currently in service in Logan County.
“Scott is retiring soon and we don’t want to turn Toby over to another handler, so we will have to make a decision at that point if we keep two dogs or go with one,” Chief Standley said.
An average Belgian Malinois police dog might expect to remain in service until about age 10, Officer Marlow said.
The dogs and their handlers are always on call, living together and spending nearly all day, every day together.
“I will spend more time with him than anyone else, including my wife,” Officer Marlow said. “He will be with me at home, when I go to work and pretty much wherever I go.”
But Arco is a pretty laid back fellow to be around, the handler said of his new partner.
“He’s usually pretty calm, but when it comes time to work, he’s off like a rocket,” Officer Marlow said.