Up In Smoke: Training With SWAT

officers and K9s training in smokeThe Madison Police Department K9 teams recently participated in smoke training with the MPD SWAT team.

During smoke training, the dogs get acclimated to working with the handlers in gas masks and other equipment while being exposed to gas. They also learn to work around other people, namely the MPD Special Weapons and Tactics team.

“We must train this and prepare the dogs in the event we have a tactical situation that includes all these variables,” says Sergeant Jeff Felt of the MPD K9 Unit.

K9 in smoke training

Road To Certification Leads To Michigan

Officer Boespflug and K9 Falko trainingLast week we shared the story of Officer Sarah Boespflug’s first days with K9 Falko. Catch up here!

Six weeks after acclimating to a new life together, it was time for Officer Sarah Boespflug and K9 Falko to head to Michigan.

Certification by the North American Working Dog Association (NAPWDA) was the next and final step in solidifying their status as Madison’s newest K9 team. Without this certification, the team can’t continue working on the streets of Madison.
Sergeant Jeff Felt, who heads up the Madison Police K9 Unit, was confident they would make the grade.

“Sarah has a great attitude and a commitment to learn,” he said.

During this certification process, K9 teams are evaluated on all their patrol functions, including obedience, building searches, areas searches, aggression control, handler protection, article searches (locating evidence), and tracking.

“It was rewarding to see the two grow together as a team,” said Felt. “Sarah’s willingness to be flexible, along with her positive attitude, not only allowed this to work but exceeded my expectations.”

After passing certification at the end of February, the team began active duty in their patrol assignment with the West Community Policing Team! Sgt. Felt reports they’re off to a great start and continue to build on a strong foundation.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth, behind-the-scenes perspectives from Officer Boespflug — and others in the K9 Unit — in the near future!

Did you know…
Officer Boespflug’s and K9 Falko’s training is funded entirely by private donations made to Capital K9s!

Make your donation today!


Pictured above: Officer Boespflug and K9 Falko training in Madison, WI. 3/1/17.
Photo credit: Tanner Gerstner/Tanner G. Photography

K9 Falko and Officer Boespflug Forge New Path Together

Officer Sarah Boespflug and K9 Falko returning from a track“Loos!”

The new officer perfects her command: Leave it!


The focus shifts to heeling.

Dutch is K9 Falko’s native language, and now it’s time for Officer Sarah Boespflug to learn it. Along with brushing up on a new language, she also minds the tone and timing of her commands, corrections, and rewards.

It’s a new venture for the Madison Police Department, and for Officer Boespflug, who joined the MPD K9 Unit in January 2017 after Officer Rose Mansavage was promoted to sergeant.

When a new K9 team is formed, the handler typically goes off to school for four to six weeks with a vendor who also provides their new working dog. There, the officer and K9 get to know each other and begin their journey together.

In this case, Falko was already a highly-trained working dog. The duo needed time to bond before starting their work together, and a transition plan was developed. The two hit it off right away and were able to begin training within a week!

The team trained for a total of five weeks, starting with the basics as Officer Boespflug acclimated and Falko adjusted to working with her.

“Everything I did was so slow,” Officer Boespflug recalls. “He was like, ‘Okay, human. Come on, let’s do this!’”

K9 Falko, catching onto Officer Boespflug’s rookie status, started to see where he could push the envelope.

“He was like a mischievous child!” Boespflug said with a laugh. “His trained response when we’re doing drug work is to sit, and he knew that he’d get rewarded. I hadn’t done enough reps with him to know what his behavior looks like— and to know that he was screwing with me to get treats!”

Falko eventually realized he’ll still get treats without having to trick his partner, and the team gradually hit their stride. They began to work on more challenging skills once the basics were squared away.

“It’s like a ballroom dance where you have to learn to dance with a new partner,” Boespflug explained. “Now that we have our dance, we actually work so much better together.”

Soon the team was off to Michigan to become independently certified by the North American Working Dog Association. More on that story next week on the Capital K9s blog!

K9 Falko runs toward a subject during a training exercise

Did you know…
Officer Boespflug’s and K9 Falko’s training is funded entirely by private donations made to Capital K9s!
Make your donation today!

Pictured above: Officer Boespflug and K9 Falko during a recent training exercise in Madison.

Third Grader Presents Donation To Capital K9s – With Extra ‘Twizzle’

Officer Wilson, Samantha, and K9 BorisA few weeks ago we introduced you to Samantha, a third grader at Sunset Ridge Elementary School.

When we met her at the Pet Parade in Middleton, she told us about the homemade dog treats and chew toys she’s been making and selling with hopes of donating some of the proceeds to Capital K9s.

As the school year wrapped up, Officer Wilson and K9 Boris paid a visit to Samantha’s school and put on a special demonstration for her classmates. Boris showed off his drug-searching skills, displayed his “break dancing moves,” and let everyone gather around to pet him. The kids loved it!

It’s a little-known fact that K9 Boris loves Twizzlers, at least according to Officer Wilson, who might have a taste for them himself! When Samantha presented her donation to Capital K9s, she included some handmade dog toys and Twizzlers for Officer Wilson and Boris.

The event was a fun way for the kids at Sunset Ridge Elementary to end their school year, and a great opportunity for Capital K9s to reconnect with an enthusiastic young supporter in our community!

Show us your enthusiastic support…
Donate to Capital K9s today!

Officer Wilson presenting to 3rd Graders

Samantha gives donation to Officer Wilson

The Kindness Of Strangers

Officer Wilson, K9 Boris, and SamanthaLocal 9-Year-Old Turns Craft Into Contributions

Four-legged friends of many kinds, along with their human companions, were recently invited to Today’s Q106 Pet Parade in Middleton, where K9 Boris, Officer Henry Wilson, and Capital K9s made new connections in the community!

The event was hosted by our friends at Mid-West Family Marketing and benefited the Dane County Humane Society. It also allowed us the chance to get the word out about this year’s Dog Paddle!

While there, we met a delightful and ambitious nine-year-old named Samantha. She’s a third grader at Sunset Ridge Elementary in Middleton, a die-hard animal lover, and already a budding philanthropist!

Samantha has been making home-baked dog treats and fleece chew toys. After packing some of her inventory into her bike basket, she rides around the neighborhood selling her products to interested dog lovers. She’s also starting to appear at area craft fairs and plans to donate some of her proceeds to Capital K9s!

Samantha at a craft fair

    Samantha at a recent craft fair at St. John the Baptist School in Waunakee

Samantha was excited to meet Officer Wilson at the Pet Parade. She says she hopes to expand her offerings to include dog sweaters, and she has dreams of someday opening a doggie spa retreat and living on a farm with rescue animals.

We’re heartened by Samantha’s kindness and giving spirit. Her passion for the welfare of animals, and her support of police K9s, is an inspiration.

Capital K9s thrives on the generosity of people like Samantha. Donate online today, or contact us to set up a fundraiser of your own!

See more photos from the Pet Parade on our Facebook page!


K9 Boris Brings A Dose Of Puppy Love To Area Preschool

Preschoolers petting K9 Boris“Where does Boris live?”

“When is his birthday?”

Dozens of little hands reach in to pet K9 Boris. He soaks in all the love and attention as Officer Henry Wilson fields a flurry of questions from curious pre-schoolers enamored by one of Madison’s finest.

The duo paid a visit to Creative Learning Preschool just off the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

Though huddled together under a small canopy on a dreary day, the teachers and students were all smiles as Officer Wilson and K9 Boris put on lively demos showcasing the fine work they do as a team every day. Each class had the chance to ask any questions on their mind, and the topics ran the gamut— from where Boris sleeps at night to how often he takes a bath!

As one class prepares to take off for kindergarten soon, they took the opportunity to rehearse their graduation song for the team. It had Officer Wilson dancing! The kids even chanted “You’re Number One!,” a distinction Officer Wilson recently earned when he was given Badge #1 by MPD.

As Officer Wilson and K9 Boris prepared to depart, it wasn’t “goodbye” so much as “see you later.” After all, with Boris’s birthday just days after one of the student’s, there’s a celebration to be had in early June!

The K9s and officers of the Madison Police K9 Unit provide outreach and education to schools, neighborhood associations, and other groups across Madison throughout the year.

Support this outreach and help us build a stronger community by donating to Capital K9s today!

View a video slideshow on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter!


K9 Jagger Locates Person in Crisis


As reported on MPD blog:

“On 3/22/17, at 10:39 PM, officers were sent to an address on Curry Parkway for a person calling our dispatch center expressing paranoid thoughts and having difficulty communicating his address.  Officers were able to locate the individual, take him into protective custody and transport him to a local hospital to get the medical treatment he needed.  Officers remained with the individual until he was admitted.

Later that evening, the subject fled the hospital because of his delusional thoughts.  Officers were called to assist locating him.  During his escape, he jumped off two elevated platforms, one approximately 25 feet high and the second about 15-20 feet high.  He was last seen screaming as he ran from the hospital. In addition to his mental health concerns, there were now also concerns about his physical health.  Several officers were dispatched to the area to look for the subject and help establish a perimeter that would hopefully contain the person while a K9 team tracked and located him.

Officer Disch and K9 Jagger responded to the hospital. Officer Disch retrieved a pillow case the subject had been laying on to use as a scent article.  The scent article provides Jagger with the scent of the individual he would be tracking.  Our K9s are trained to scent discriminate track (stay true to the scent they are given to track) and any object that contains that person’s scent can be used.  K9 Jagger took the scent and the team began tracking on a 15 foot leash with backup officers with them.

Office Disch and Jagger tracked to a tall fence with a small opening under the fence line.  Jagger attempted to track under the fence. He could have gone under, but Officer Disch and the backup officers would likely have had some difficulty doing this safely. The team moved around the 10′ fence and re-established the track on the other side of the fence.  They continued tracking until Jagger began showing behavior changes (oftentimes when the K9 gets closer to a subject, the handler will see the dogs intensity increase among other changes).  The team and backup officers moved around this fence and continued to let Jagger work.  He began showing the same changes of behavior Officer Disch had seen earlier.  These changes were directed at a shed on the corner of the property.  Officer Disch recognized these changes and brought Jagger back to him and the other officers.

Officer Disch began giving commands to the shed.  After a few commands and calling the individual by name, two hands appeared from inside the shed and were extended out of the window.  Shortly after that, the missing at-risk individual was taken into protective custody, transported back to the hospital to evaluate his injuries and make arrangements for temporary placement at a secure medical facility to treat his mental health situation.

This could have been a tragic ending.  Because of the excellent work by all of the officers involved, including Officer Disch and K9 Jagger, this young man will be getting the treatment he needs.”

Health care is for the police dogs of Wisconsin, too

by Nik Hawkins

If you ask Deputy Jason Behm, he’ll tell you without hesitation that Harlow is the perfect partner.

MPD Officer Eric Disch & K9 Jagger with Dr. Christopher Snyder

“He’s the ideal blend of personality and – when it comes to work – intensity,” says Behm, a 16-year veteran of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. And at the end of a long shift, Harlow likes a good scratch under his collar as a reward.

Harlow is a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd mix, and he and Behm have been partners for more than three years. Like so many police dogs, Harlow’s contributions to law enforcement have been remarkable. But in late 2016, his career was in danger of an early end. Harlow began experiencing severe lethargy and extreme stiffness in his joints. After initial treatments at his local primary care clinic did not resolve Harlow’s health troubles, the K-9 was referred to the Small Animal Internal Medicine Service at UW Veterinary Care (UWVC).

In seeking help for Harlow, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office benefited from a new effort at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) to make care even more accessible to K-9 units across Wisconsin.

A diagnosis and treatment

On duty or off, Harlow is an affection hound. When he trots into a room he makes the rounds, imploring everyone with his eyes for a scratch or a rub. And if that fails, he uses his muzzle, his tongue, his paws and so on. It’s clear Harlow thrives on interactions with people and he returns the favor by making a difference in peoples’ lives through his work.

A prime example: Last year, Behm and Harlow were dispatched to a missing person case, where a dog’s nose becomes invaluable. Harlow performed admirably, leading the search party through a forested county park where the remains of the missing person were recovered. Despite a somber outcome, the bereaved family was so grateful for Harlow’s help finding their loved one that they mailed a thank-you letter to the sheriff’s office shortly after the incident. That Christmas, they sent a donation to the K-9 unit.

But uncomfortable and fatigued, Harlow found it became increasingly difficult to perform his duties.

At UWVC in Madison – following an ultrasound, X-rays, and a series of blood and fluid tests by the clinical pathology team – clinical instructor Hattie Bortnowski and resident Allison Leuin ­confirmed that Harlow’s symptoms were caused by effusion, or swelling, in multiple joints. Analysis of fluid samples from his joints made them suspect immune-mediated polyarthropathy, a condition in which a dog’s immune system triggers an antibody response that causes arthritis in more than one joint.

Fortunately, the treatment they prescribed, a course of a common steroid called prednisone, has worked well to reduce the swelling.

“It helped us save his career,” says Behm. “He’s bounced back to a point where he seems better than he was as a puppy.”

Aiding K-9 units statewide

UWVC has long provided care and other support for police dogs, but the new statewide K-9 health effort was created after the school looked for ways to do more to serve them and their departments.

“In the past, students, employees and friends of the school have banded together to raise funds for protective vests for K-9s,” says Ruthanne Chun, associate dean for clinical affairs and director of UWVC. “But, to really recognize the crucial role police dogs play in law enforcement, we wanted to be a more intentional sponsor for them, and in a formal way.”

In late summer 2016, UWVC sent letters out to nearly 130 law enforcement agencies throughout the state to inform them of the new program. Those in Dane County – UWVC’s primary service area – were offered $5,000 in credit for veterinary services at regular rates and a 50 percent discount on any service beyond that for each calendar year. Agencies outside of Dane County were offered a 50 percent discount.

UWVC has built the credited services into its budget, and the SVM covers all discounted costs using gift funds. As of February 2017, 45 agencies have taken advantage of the offer by signing agreements with UWVC.

“It’s a tremendous help,” says Behm, whose K-9 unit has three dogs. “Without it, a more complicated health issue could break our budget.”

For the Madison Police Department (MPD), which raises funds for its eight-dog unit through a non-profit organization called Capital K9s, the discounted services go a long way. In addition to veterinary medical care and training for their dogs, the unit must fundraise for specially outfitted squad cars, computers, and other capital expenses. Any money they can save at the animal hospital can be redirected for these needs.

“In this environment, where money is so tight, every penny matters,” says Sgt. Jeff Felt, who supervises MPD’s K-9 Unit. “From the standpoint of the care the dogs receive, which is first priority, and from an expense standpoint, it’s been absolutely beneficial.”

Without the generosity of the SVM and other local veterinary clinics and the vendors who have donated food, the MPD K-9 Unit would not exist, Felt says. But the true beneficiaries are the communities the dogs serve.

Police K-9s take part in a wide range of police duties. They are perhaps best known for tracking and locating armed suspects and missing persons, but they also prevent potential confrontations with suspects by barking warnings to officers or simply by encouraging a surrender with their presence.

Police dogs also help law enforcement agencies improve their community engagement. Felt and the MPD K-9 Unit give more than 100 public demonstrations each year and the dogs help foster trust and dispel skepticism with their friendly nuzzles and palm licks.

“These are challenging times for law enforcement,” says Felt. “It’s amazing how the dogs have the ability to break down barriers. It’s quite powerful to make that connection.”

A large portion of the work done by K-9s is conducted behind the scenes. For example, prior to major events like concerts, athletic competitions, and visits from dignitaries, specially trained police dogs and their handlers sweep through venues, looking for bombs and other dangers.

“They make our jobs safer,” says Felt. “But more importantly, they truly help us keep the community as safe as possible.”

School of Veterinary Medicine helps keep police K-9s safe in the field

The UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) has found other ways to support local K-9 units beyond credited and discounted services at UW Veterinary Care.

To help protect police dogs from stabbings and gunshot wounds – which comes with the territory in their line of duty – students, staff, faculty and friends of the SVM have pooled together donations to fund protective vests for five police dogs from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Madison Police Department and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Police Department. Many law enforcement agencies do not have the additional funds necessary to purchase canine body armor.

Other injuries are inevitable in a line of work as dangerous as law enforcement, and knowing how to perform basic first aid on a dog in the field could be a critical, K-9- life-saving skill for police officers and emergency medical technicians. So in February 2017, Jonathan Bach, clinical associate professor of emergency and critical care at the SVM, also volunteered his time to demonstrate basic first aid and triage techniques to the Dane County Sheriff’s Department after they reached out to him.

He walked deputies through the fundamentals of injury assessment and treatment, such as checking vital signs, recognizing bloating and heat stroke, and responding to more serious trauma, such as tourniquet application. For medics, Bach discussed airway management, administration of intravenous access (IV), chest compression techniques, the use of splints and backboards to secure long bone fractures, and wound treatment. He also covered ways to prevent heat exhaustion, proper dosages of anesthetics and how to use Narcan to combat an overdose in the event a drug-sniffing dog is exposed to an opioid.