Canine officer ready to wag off the force

Rusty poses with partner Officer Dale Johnson before announcing his retirement. - Jessica Hoch/Staff photo
Rusty poses with partner Officer Dale Johnson before announcing his retirement.
— image credit: Jessica Hoch/Staff photo

After seven years on our force Canine Officer Rusty is preparing to hang up his leash.

The 9 to 10 year-old chocolate lab mix is nearing retirement. Most dogs leave police work around age 10, and Rusty has developed (right) ear problems and a damaged eardrum, and is preparing to wind down professionally.

Within the next two years the Bainbridge Island Police Department would like to replace Rusty with a dual-purpose narcotics tracking dog. The BIPD will use up to $15,000 from a dedicated police investigations fund collected through restitution from drug offenders and pooled specifically to be used to fight drug abuse.

Since Rusty joined the force in May of 2004 he has completed 203 drug searches where he located controlled substances or drug paraphernalia 495 times. He assisted in 179 arrests. Rusty has helped find drugs with a street value of more than $125,000.

“We are seeing an increase of black tar heroin and other drugs in our community and Rusty has been a vital tool,” said BIPD Cmdr. Sue Shultz. ”I don’t know what we would have done without him in the last couple years.”

Rusty currently shares a desk with his partner, Officer Dale Johnson. Rusty works on-call when situations arise outside Johnson’s scheduled shift. He primarily works on the island, but he helps in Suquamish and Poulsbo when needed.

Shultz said the BIPD would like to look for a dual-trained drug and tracking dog when Rusty leaves. Tracking dogs can be used to search for missing elderly or children and for offenders, but are not trained to bite.

“In recent months there were four experiences when a tracking dog would have been quite a tool for our department,” said Shultz.

During Rusty’s tenure he has connected with community members of all ages. Upon retirement he will be placed with Officer Johnson and his family.

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