Handler reflects on police dog’s retirement, end of South Side K9 program

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT – It was on Det. Devin Thompson’s birthday that his K9 partner of eight years retired and started a domesticated life in Thompson’s home.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure,” said Thompson, who purchased Dany from the borough for a ceremonial $1. “I have now spent half of my career as a K9 handler. It’s been absolutely the most rewarding aspect of my law enforcement career to date. Just having a partner that you can rely on day in and day out.”

After growing complications with arthritis in his shoulders, Dany retired on Dec. 10.

During Dany’s roughly 400 deployments with the South Williamsport Police Department he has assisted in the seizure of $300,000 worth of narcotics and tracked down numerous weapons and suspects, Thompson said. He added that he and Dany often were deployed to other municipalities in and outside of Lycoming County.

The borough chose not to continue its K9 program after Dany’s retirement, leaving only the borough of Hughesville, and the state police with police dogs in the county.

Thompson said he was disappointed to see the program end, but he hopes someday to bring it back to the borough.

“It’s very much an active deterrent when somebody sees the big K9 decals on the car and they hear the dog in there barking and snarling. It makes them second guess what they want to do and where they want to do it,” Thompson said.

In addition to the tactical advantage of a police dog, Thompson said the boost in public relations is a key factor.

He and Dany kept a heavy presence in many of the county’s schools for the last eight years.

“I still can’t go anywhere and have anyone that’s 20 and under not know my name, or say ‘Hey where’s Dany, Devin?’” he said. “The public relations aspect alone, at least for us, has paid out in dividends.”

Dany was purchased from Slovakia through donations from local businesses and the area VFW. Each subsequent year Thompson was able to raise the roughly $2,000 needed for training, food and medical expenses through local donations and fundraisers.

“We were able to keep it operational without using taxpayer money,” he said. “The program pretty much ran itself after the first year, year and a half.”

But the transition from police dog to family pet has been less than smooth.

“He’s been a terror at my house. He’s been in full work-dog mode.” Thompson said with a laugh, detailing household items like tablecloths, Christmas tree skirt and couch blankets, that Dany has chewed through. “He gets idle paws and gets in trouble very easily.”

Since Dany’s retirement, Thompson has been promoted to detective and now works cases alone.

“(Dany’s) been tremendously missed.” Thompson said. “It was real hard to finalize that chapter, but we’ve opened up another page so we’re moving on.”

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