MARCO

     Police Service Dog Marco was a 1 ½ year old Dutch Shepard  when I first  received him in 1992. He had been flown to the United States from Europe where he had been selected by the European  vendor that our agency worked with.   I had been selected  to  be a  PSD handler and soon met Marco in October 1992. My new  position in  my agency  had begun on October 12.    I, as well as  four  other law officers  had been selected to  join the ranks of the Police Service Dog Unit.  Although it was not a separate Division such as the Uniform, Criminal or Drug Division's in our agency yet,  we were definitely  in a specialized part  of the agency in those days of '92.
     Being a K-9 cop had been  something  that I had been interested  in for  some time because  of the  fact it was fairly new not just  in our agency  but in our state as  a  whole.  Sure, there  were a few agencies that had police dogs and had them as part of their agencies for a good long  while.  Note-worthy was the  capitol city :  Lincoln  and the  K-9  unit they had and how successful  it had  been for them.  We  were originally  trained by  a  dog  trainer company called Detector Dogs International  who had  been training  the Border Patrol  and  other agencies  all  over  the  country  for several years.    After eight  weeks of mostly  ten to fifteen hour training days, we finally graduated to a certified PSD Team on December 12, 1992.  
     Right out of the gates, PSD Marco and me put a small crimp on the ‘drug traffickers' who  ventured  across our area  on the Interstate and other roadways.   Working  hand in hand with  other  guys such as  George Scott,  Andy Allen,  Jerry  Schenck  and  Sgt. Chris Kolb; PSD Marco and I were kept pretty busy.  Coming on as a PSD team only a year or so after the first PSD Team of Jerry Schenck and PSD Nero,  we ventured  into  many great “bad guy catching” escapades. Jerry and PSD
Nero worked the day shift nabbing smugglers and literally thousands of pounds of marijuana and cocaine-laden  vehicles in the early to late 90’s, (major methamphetamine trafficking had not yet started as the Mexican Drug Trafficking  Organizations (DTO's) had not yet taken that enterprise over from the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs-this would soon occur in the mid1990’s though).
     Myself and PSD Marco would be assigned to the night shift (by my lack of seniority with Jerry's 19 years  versus my 4 years) and  we ventured more into foiling  the “breaking and entering” arena of criminality for agencies such as the Hall and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Departments but mainly the Grand Island Police Department  were the ones who  kept me the most busy with the patrol calls. I still got plenty involved in the drug seizure business watching Marco sniff them out, but the patrol  calls
early on  was what  Marco  first  made his name known for.
     The GIPD  kept me  very busy  on my night  shifts.  I  still tell the stories to new  guys of Sergeant  Pete Kortum  of  the  GIPD who  would call me  directly at  home for a faster response to their assistance after the  first ‘caper’ of a burglar being caught by PSD Marco. Pete who has been deservedly promoted through the ranks and now is a Captain with the GIPD and one day most likely will be Chief, would call me directly at home usually at about 3 or 4 AM while I was fast asleep in an ‘REM state’ and  he would ask for PSD Marco as well as my assistance.          
    Now  you're probably saying, “I thought  you were assigned ‘night shift’
with PSD Marco? Why would you be asleep at 3 or 4 AM?”  Well...the night shift for me was not  actually “nights”.  It was more like a “swing shift”.  I worked generally  either 4  PM  to midnight  or maybe 6  pm to  2 AM in the summer.   It was generally my luck that I would be asleep  when the  call  would come  from him.   Back in those  young days of mine, being woken up once, and sometimes two times in a night for a callout  was what I lived for. The adrenaline  really starts flowing fast as you are told  the PD (police department) has a guy surrounded in a building that he was burglarizing, or a call  for  the dog because  a guy that has denied a copper consent to search his car and PSD Marco is desperately needed.
     Out  of bed I would hop, then get dressed in my black patrol BDU's (Battle Dress Uniform), gun  belt,  bullet proof vest and me  and Marco would be on our way as quick as we could.  I always knew time was of the essence.  The very first  “apprehension”  for  Marco was a  week or so after graduating to the “streets” as a PSD Team in 1992 Grand Island had never had a PSD Team in  the area and  knowing one was available now,  the Police; especially Sgt. Pete Kortum  upon it with vigor and many times enthusiasm.  In a city of  almost  40,000 people  it was  a target rich area and Marco  proved  himself more  than once.
     On this  first callout, dispatch called me at home and said the GIPD believed they had a guy inside of  the Trinity School in Grand Island. I got dressed and sped off with PSD Marco and met with Pete out in the parking lot.  Pete explained “I’m not sure if he’s still in  there Greg... we haven’t had any alarms from the motion detectors go off in a while so he
may have slipped out before my guys were all set up.” (on perimeter duty). I told  him that we’d give it a try anyway. What the hell? I'm already out of bed;  just as well let Marco take a check inside the school.  Even if the bad guy’s gone, Marco still gets the training aspect of searching the building.  At this early stage in his long  career, he would not know if it’s for real or not. Pete advised the fellow officers that myself and PSD Marco were entering the front doors and that they should watch their locations with great attention.
     We entered quietly only a few feet into the old school. We didn't use any flashlights so as to not give our positions away.  We crept  to the edge of the long hallway and  when  I saw  that  Pete and Marco  were ready,  I yelled out my commands as  required by policy. “State Patrol!...sound off or I’ll send the dog!”  This was repeated a minimum of two times. A well trained PSD is supposed to not make a sound during this announcement. It’s called “surveillance position”.  The dog quietly listens  for any movements or sounds away from his handler during the ‘surveillance position’.  But the only problem was that Marco,  who was by all accounts a well trained PSD, also had a reputation that he liked to do things his way sometimes.  So on this virgin  of  occasions on a real callout, Marco decided  to rambunctiously  bark repeatedly  the instant he heard those commands from me.  In fact   he was  so riled up and excited, as I desperately tried to control  him by  hanging onto  his collar and yelling my lawful commands,  he whipped his  head back and decided  to see if I’d flinch by him literally biting the hand that feeds him.      Of course I didn't feel his canines penetrating  my right forearm.  In fact I  didn't even  realize it until later that the son-of-a-gun had also ripped my cool agency  “raid jacket” with his thirst for the bad guy.  As soon as the commands were yelled and  all the commotion Marco was making, it was pretty obvious to the ‘bad guy’ we really did have a dog. I  then heard footsteps  running down the hall. Yes it was the burglar running and getting  away  and as  quick as I let Marco go I figured this guy was going to get his butt bit.  I mean, my arm had already been bit and I was supposed to be in the building.  The bad guy sure as hell deserved it more than me.  PSD Marco ran down the hall as fast as he could but in all reality was not very fast.  Remember... this was a school. Not a new school with carpet.   An old school with slick tile on  the floor. And running on  tile with  toenails  and four pads isn't the easiest thing to do if you  are a dog.
     Bad-Guy Michael England had been at the end of the hallway when the barking started. As  Marco ran,  and slid, and ran  and slid, he came closer to the burglars butt.   But  the burglar escaped  out the side door just in time for him (still with the  stolen TV  in  his hands) to run into the waiting arms of Grand Island police officer Frank Bergmark. It wasn't the all-time, world-class  greatest apprehension of a criminal but it  was a big deal for me as Marco had made his first apprehension. I mean what  was  better than catching a burglar running out with a TV still in his hands into the  hands of the  police? The officers from the police department  thought it was great,  Pete thought  it was great, and I definitely thought it was great. Even Marco thought it was great. I praised-up Marco, took him home  and gave him a piece of steak that was in the fridge.  It would  become  a very expensive reward as I promised to officers from then on Marco would get a piece of meat or steak every time he caught a bad guy.  
     It was only weeks  later that Marco got to prove himself all over again. I was called out by the dispatch that the GIPD had a possible burglar inside of a local bowling alley. Eventually Marco and I would  work day by day for a total  of 8 1/2 years. When I finally had to retire him, it was a difficult decision to make but one I still feel was the right one to make. Marco had started to get dysplasia in the hip area and with the medication he was taking and the fact that  I did not want to work him until he was crippled,  I decided  to retire Marco out at age 10. June 1, 2001 was Marco's official last day.
     Marco would be responsible in his 8 1/2 years of sniffing out literally tons of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine and 'currency galore' and would receive several specialized  awards. His awards include winning Gold, Silver  and  Bronze medals repeatedly in both 1996 and 1998 in Salt Lake City at the Utah Police Service Dog Championships in the categories of: High Risk  Building Search, Toughest Dog, Fastest Dog, Mile and a Half Obstacle Course, SWAT Dog  Deployment  and the Dual Dog Deployment Competition. Marco also would receive a Special commendation for  an apprehension on a  cold,dark night in the snow-filled fields of my midwest state for a suspect out of Texas wanted forseveral dangerous felony charges.  
     On February 13, 2004  I would have to put Marco 'down' .  Marco was a great dog and he'll always be one of the agencies finest K-9's. And the many things he would help myself and other officers as a K-9 with us performing Criminal Interdiction would astound me.

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