WOODSTOCK – After more than seven years of loyal service, Brinx is passing on the patrol vest to Jax.
The 8-year-old German Shepherd officially retired from the Woodstock Police Department at the end of 2013. With him, his handler, Ray Lanz, stepped down from the K-9 unit.
In front of a large crowd that included the new Woodstock K-9 unit, Officer David Dempsey and his partner Jax, and Lanz and Brinx, were honored for their service Tuesday at Woodstock’s city council meeting.
Beforehand, in the lobby of City Hall, reporter Shawn Shinneman caught up with Lanz to hear about his time in the K-9 unit, the beginnings of the program and the difference between owning a dog and having one as a partner. While they spoke, Brinx laid obediently nearby.
Shinneman: How long does it take to go through the training?
Lanz: It’s an eight-week course. Generally the dog has about three months of what they call pre-training, where the instructor does the course. ... They’ll teach them basic commands.
And then once we meet with them, that’s when the actual K-9 training starts.
Shinneman: So do you go pick out your dog at that point?
Lanz: No. The owner of TOPS Kennel in Grayslake, Alex Rothacker, he’s like the “Dog Whisperer.” It’s amazing, this guy. He does a personality profile on you, he finds out what kind of demeanor you have as a person.
Some people get aggravated more easily than others, so somebody who has a short temper like that, they would need a stronger-willed dog who can take a more aggressive owner. Whereas a dog who has more feelings would need a more laid-back handler.
Shinneman: So did he give you a personality test, or kind of ask you about yourself beforehand?
Lanz: He did. Brinx actually wasn’t my first dog. I had another one, him and I were pretty much like “Clash of the Titans.” I had him for two weeks, and him and I didn’t mesh well together. He actually got sent off to [the Royal Canadian Mounted Police], up in Canada, and he was a K-9 up there.
(Motioning to Brinx) I got him about two weeks into the training, and they had just gotten him in. He had none of that pre-training, all he could do was sit. He and I learned everything together.
Shinneman: So, the Woodstock Police, there’s only one K-9 unit at any given time, right?
Lanz: Yes. I was the first. There’d never been one before me.
Shinneman: Oh, wow.
Lanz: Yeah. He and I, we were the only ones up until, I think it was November of 2013.
Shinneman: That’s when Jax was introduced?
Lanz: Correct. ... He came out on the street in November, and [Brinx] and I retired the month after, so for a month and a half we had two dogs.
Shinneman: Tell me about the beginning of the program. Did you take the initiative to get that started?
Lanz: I did not. Chief (Robert) Lowen, when he came over to Woodstock from Carpentersville. ... I know Carpentersville had success with their K-9 program. I know that was one of the things he wanted to implement here in Woodstock because of the positive experience.
They put it out to the entire department, whoever was interested. Submit an application, letter of interest, things like that. So I did those things, went through the interview process, and I was selected. I think there were six or seven applicants that put in for it.
Shinneman: Had you been a dog person?
Lanz: Oh, yeah. I’ve had dogs my whole life.
Shinneman: What have you found has been the difference, having the working aspect of the relationship with your dog added to the mix?
Lanz: It’s a lot different.
I had dogs all growing up, and you tell them to come and they come. These dogs, you tell them to go jump in icy water to do whatever, he won’t even think about it, he’ll go jump in the water.
After doing this for seven and a half years, I’m willing to almost bet that you’ll never hear a K-9 handler call his K-9 a dog. Because he’s not a dog, he’s your partner, he’s a K-9, he’s your friend. You’ll never hear him say, “Well, here’s my dog.” That’s the difference. It’s like a parent saying, “This is the kid.”
Shinneman: So what happens now. He’s yours, right?
Lanz: He is. ... We discussed his retirement date, which was deemed to be New Year’s Eve, 2013. We had to do some formality paperwork relieving the city of any and all liability, things like that.
I assume all responsibilities. ... He’s mine, until the end.
Shinneman: Stories that stick out through the years?
Lanz: Oh, goodness. Where do I start?
Fox River Grove, they had a homicide in their town, and I got called out to assist them. From a park where the possible suspect was last observed, we ended up tracking up over Route 14, down underneath an underpass along the Fox River, over into a Dumpster by a marina where we found the guy’s backpack. It had all his mail and the bloody clothes and things like that.
Shinneman: All from the scent?
Lanz: All from the scent. Tied that case together really well. That was fun.