Deputy dog calls it a career

After six years of helping people and catching bad guys, Wasko retires from Ozaukee Sheriff’s Office, settles into civilian life with his handler and his family

OZAUKEE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE Sgt. Bradley Arndt posed with his partner, K9 Wasko, at the dog’s retirement celebration on Tuesday. Wasko has participated in hundreds of arrests, drug seizures and search and rescue efforts in his career, Arndt said. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

At K9 Wasko’s retirement party on Tuesday at the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office, the German shepherd, a 6-year veteran of the department, didn’t have any of the cake  decorated in his honor, but had a lot to say, barking with excitement at deputies and other personnel there to honor their colleague.

Wasko was “clueless” as to what the fuss was about, his handler Sgt. Bradley Arndt said.

“I don’t know how to translate ‘retirement’ into German,” Arndt said.

After Tuesday, Wasko is a full-time civilian, having participated in hundreds of drug busts, search and rescue efforts and other cases since joining the department in 2015.

One of Wasko’s most memorable cases occurred last spring in near freezing weather, Arndt said, when a suspect ran from a traffic stop in the Town of Grafton into a swampy area, where the man hid underwater, with just his mouth protruding from the surface.

“It was extremely cold. Wasko tracked him to a swamp and pointed him out to us,” he said. “He was hypothermic and might have died if Wasko hadn’t found him.”

Wasko, Arndt was careful to explain, does not attack people.

“He is trained to bite and hold people” until a deputy arrives to take the person into custody, he said.

Arndt said Wasko is a “dual purpose narcotics dog,” with two primary skill sets.

The first is locating narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The other is “patrol work,” he said, which includes tracking people, suspect apprehension and protecting his handler.

Besides catching suspects, Wasko has tracked and found missing children and senior citizens who wander away from home.

Born in Germany, Wasko, who turned 9 in April, was brought to the United States as a yearling by Steinig Tal Kennels in Campbellsport, where he was trained to be a police dog.

Arndt had to learn to give Wasko commands in German.

Arndt, who said he had trained bird dogs, applied to be Wasko’s handler.

“I’m generally a dog guy, and once I became a cop I saw the use of police dogs.”

Being a K9 handler is a big commitment, Arndt said.

“It’s not a 40-hour-a-week thing. It’s 24/7. It’s a long-term commitment,” he said. “You don’t change handlers.”

Since they’ve been partners, Wasko has lived with Arndt and his wife, Melissa, and their three sons, ages 8, 6 and 4.

“It’s a 24/7 relationship,” Arndt said. “When my alarm goes off in the morning, he comes and puts his nose near my head until I get out of bed.

“He’s always with me. He’s a family member. He’s come on family vacations with us.”

Even though Wasko is 9 years old, he is still very energetic, Arndt said. “Most people think he’s 2.”

His only health issues have been a B12 deficiency and an eye problem, both of which are treatable, Arndt said.

Keeping Wasko exercised will be a challenge, Arndt said, and that responsibility will fall mainly to his wife and their sons.

“The plan is to walk him twice a day and take him to the park once,” she said. “The two older boys can take him for a walk too.”

A neighbor also has volunteered to walk Wasko.

His favorite game is playing fetch, although he gets tired a little sooner than he used to, Arndt said. “He literally has a ball in his mouth all the time.”

That was true Tuesday, dropping it only when the Arndts’ youngest son, Landon, ate a piece of cake near Wasko.

Wasko is succeeded by K9 Odin, a 2-year-old German shepherd, who was sworn in last month and joins Rev as  the Sheriff’s Office’s two police dogs. Elsewhere in the county, the Mequon Police Department has two dogs and Cedarburg police have one, Arndt said.

“I’m going to miss working with him,” he said. “It’s been a blast.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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