Blade the K-9 racked up some impressive numbers in his seven years with the Edina Police Department.
Together with his handler, officer Jason Behr, Blade located more than 75 suspects, searched more than 100 buildings and played a major role in 150 narcotics inspections, according to the department. He underwent almost 2,000 hours of training and assisted in more than 400 calls.
Blade, who served the usual length of time for a K-9 and is suffering from deteriorating health, went on his last patrol Dec. 27. On Thursday, Edina held a retirement party to commemorate his service.
“Jason and Blade were on the job tracking the suspects and making arrests,” said Edina Police Lt. Brian Tholen. “They were a great team and will continue to be a great team.”
From 2010 to 2016, Blade and Behr spent countless hours together working, training and living in their Bloomington home.
“I was probably with that dog more than I was with my family for any portion of those seven years,” Behr, 38, said.
Behr, who grew up with dogs as family members, wanted a police dog before Edina even had a K-9 program.
“In police work, K-9 is generally the first one in and the last one out,” he said. “You go into the most dangerous calls and it’s basically yours to take care of.”
“Obviously, finding bad guys is something that’s fun to do,” he added.
Owning patrol dogs is expensive, Behr said. Smaller suburbs such as Minnetonka and Eden Prairie have a couple of K-9s in their units; bigger cities, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, have many more.
Edina police started its K-9 unit in 2002, buying and training two dogs for the force.
A black-and-brown German shepherd, Blade was born in Slovakia, bought for $7,500 and paired with Behr when he was 1½ years old.
The pair worked night shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with Behr behind the wheel of the patrol car and Blade in the back kennel. In a 24-hour period after his first month, Blade caught four burglars in Edina and St. Louis Park, Behr said.
Through his training, Blade developed two disciplines: one for patrol work and another for narcotics. Unlike more social patrol dogs, Blade was all business.
“When the tracking harness was put on, Blade knew he was tracking,” Tholen said. “And don’t bother him. He had a job to do.”
Behr said criminals tended to “stop and give up” when Blade was at the scene. He also said Blade was a bonding force between residents and police.
“People just are not afraid to come up and ask questions to you ... because you have a dog,” he said. “It seems to break down some sort of barrier.”
About a year ago, Behr noticed Blade was slowing down. Anemia and lesions on his spleen were affecting his energy levels, a veterinarian told Behr. It was time for him to retire.
On his last shift, the pair assisted in two pursuits of robbery suspects.
Blade, no longer a K-9, lives at home with Behr and his fiancé, Allie. His replacement has already been found: Ike, who starts basic training in March.
Behr is now in his new job as a training officer at police headquarters. It feels strange not having a canine partner by his side anymore, he said.
“From the point that you begin K-9 to the point you end it, training is constantly ongoing,” he said. “I’m getting adjusted to the fact that I’m not doing that anymore.”