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Ares — a 16-month-old, energetic German shepherd dog — replaced the township’s first canine, Bosko, a 9-year-old shepherd now enjoying retirement in the home of his former colleague.
Scott Palmer, Ares’ partner and Bosko’s housemate, not only shares his professional ventures with the dogs, but also his home address, where they live with his wife and two children.
Looking at the German shepherd jumping and playing outside the Annapolis Police Station, no one would suspect this veteran crime-fighter is sick.
But Ares has a cancerous tumor that has been growing on the inside of his jaw for at least the last few months.
He is one of the city Police Department’s K-9s trained to assist officers by sniffing out the presence of drugs and for finding hidden criminals.
He’s been with the department for six years.
The small tumor on the lower part of the inside of his jaw has grown larger since his handler, Cpl. Chris Tucker, noticed it in October. It started out at about the size of a pea, and now it’s the circumference of a dime.
The tumor is operable, but surgery is expensive and will require Ares to give up his job.
Right now, Cpl. Tucker has decided not to do the surgery for as long as Ares is able to work.
“If we do the surgery, it completely retires him as a police dog,” he said.
Doing the surgery, and retiring him now, would likely take a huge toll on the dog’s mental status, he said. Police dogs live for their jobs and enjoy working.
“Taking him away from the job is going to kill his spirit,” Tucker said.
He recalled a time last year when Ares, who lives with Tucker, had a minor surgery on his mouth for a different problem. The dog was not allowed to work for a couple of weeks.
“The dog was miserable,” he said. “He laid around the house and moped. He’s a work dog. He’s not a house dog.”
So the plan is for Ares to continue working as long as he’s still up to par on his skills and isn’t showing any signs of pain.
“It might be two weeks, it might be two months,” Tucker said.
They still may do the surgery, depending on the progression of the illness, after the dog is retired. Ares’ medical bills are covered as long as he’s an active work dog, but after that the onus falls on Tucker to foot the bill for the surgery, which is expected to cost about $2,000.
Ares was donated to the department in 2003 by Art and Jean Held, owners of the former landmark Maryland Avenue shop Johnson’s On The Avenue. The Helds also donated Luke, another police dog, last summer.
Ares is 71/2 years old and he would likely be retiring soon anyway. Most police dogs retire at about age 8, Tucker said.
The news of Ares’ cancer, and his accelerated retirement, is a blow to the department’s K-9 unit, which has five dogs.
That number provides optimum coverage, so that dogs are available for all shifts, Tucker said.
In 2007, the city had three police dogs and completed 75 narcotics scans. But when they added the extra dogs in 2008, that number increased nearly five times, with 367 scans.
The dogs are invaluable because they can do the work of many officers in searches of buildings, Cpl. Tucker said. And unlike a human, the dogs rarely miss the target – if a suspect is hiding somewhere, the police officer might not see him, but the dog will always pick up his scent, he said.
Ares has had “tons of good calls” over the course of his six-year career, Tucker said.
In one case, the dog tracked down a homicide suspect in a backyard in Eastport. In another case, he helped county police find more than $35,000 worth of narcotics, three guns, body armor and thousands of dollars in cash while police were serving two warrants in an Annapolis-area hotel and storage unit.
And he’s helped make other arrests in robberies, car thefts and drug cases.
“I’m still amazed. I still learn something every time I use him,” Tucker said.
Jane Schlegel, a police spokesman, said the department will try to keep five dogs in the K-9 unit. At this point there is no firm plan in place as to when Ares’ replacement would be funded, and there is no money in the budget for it, Schlegel said. Trained dogs cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
She stressed their importance to the crime-fighting team.
“They perform a vital service,” Schlegel said. “It’s another line of protection for officers, too, when they arrive at the scene.”
Since he found out about the tumor months ago, Tucker said he has come to terms with Ares’ illness.
“I’m trying to enjoy what time I have left to work him,” Tucker said.
Once Ares retires, Tucker said he’ll do his best to keep Ares active and give him work to do at home, though it won’t be as intense, and it won’t be real police work.
“I know it’s going to be a rude awakening,” he said.
MONTEBELLO – There’s only one way to sum up a police department career that involved 1,100 searches, 400 drug busts and numerous apprehensions: “dog tired.”
Ares, a Belgian Malinois K-9 working for the Montebello Police Department, has done all that, his handler said.
Sadly, a knee injury has forced an early end to Ares’ career. He will live out his golden years with handler Cpl. Rick Money.
“I am going to miss everything about it,” said Money, who will no longer be a handler. “I love being a handler – the patrols, searching and training. Every bit of it was great for me.”
The police department currently has two trained dogs and is searching for Ares’ replacement.
That might be a tall order because Ares was trained for patrol and narcotics duties. He can sniff out marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine as well as find and apprehend people.
Money said the K-9′s finest moment on the force is when he stopped a gunman from shooting at his fellow officers.
“The bad guy was hit and he dropped his gun,” Money said. “He was reaching to pick it up when Ares bit him and pulled him away.”
The Montebello K-9 Association, a nonprofit organization, helped pay for reconstructive knee surgery for Ares. He is currently healing and should be fully functioning in about five months.
Money is thrilled Ares can remain part of the family but said he will miss his partner.
“It was a great and I loved it,” Money said. “It is very sad that it ended so abruptly.”