Rev will become second German shepherd in ranks of sheriff’s office that has found the four-legged officers to be highly effective at fighting drug scourge
The Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office deputy dog has proven so useful, especially when it comes to fighting the war on drugs, that the department will add a second four-legged officer to its ranks next month.
Rev, a 1-1/2 year old, 75-pound German shepherd, will officially join the force during a public ceremony on May 6.
“Obviously we have a drug addiction problem in this county, and a lot of what our dog does is drug detection,” Sheriff Jim Johnson, a former police dog handler, said. “Having a second dog means more time on the streets with K9 units.”
Rev will join the department’s current dog, Wasko (pronounced Vasko), a 4-year-old German shepherd who joined the force in 2015. Wasko was the department’s first dog since Argo, who was handled by Johnson, retired in 2002.
Both dogs were born in Germany, and like Wasko and his handler, deputy Brad Arndt, Rev and his handler, deputy Becky Swanson, are being trained at the Steinig Tal Police K9 Academy in Campbellsport.
“I think Rev has a little ADD (attention deficit disorder),” Swanson said. “We were working on obedience today and Rev was watching butterflies.”
That may be the puppy in him, but if Wasko is any indication, Rev will be all business on the job and, in particular, an asset when it comes to finding illegal drugs like heroin.
The dogs are trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as well as synthetic marijuana and some fake opioids, and they leave nothing to guess when they find what they’re smelling for.
“Wasko is an aggressive indicating dog,” Arndt said. “He’ll bite, scratch and bark at a vehicle if he detects drugs. In training once, he took a side-view mirror off a truck.”
Wasko’s ability to detect drugs is so sensitive that he can detect even traces amounts, Arndt said.
“He once indicated on the hood of a car,” he said. “The driver said he had smoked a joint earlier and leaned on the car where Wasko indicated.”
That’s why it’s important that handlers have confidence in their dogs, Johnson said.
“My dog once indicated on a hamburger and I’m like, ‘What is wrong with you? It’s a hamburger,’” Johnson said. “Then I remembered what my trainer said — always trust your dog. It turns out there were two bindles (envelopes for drugs) of cocaine in the burger.”
But Wasko and Rev are hardly one-trick ponies. They receive general police training, which means they can track and apprehend suspects, search for people and evidence and protect their handlers. Wasko also works with the county’s Special Response Team.
Although Wasko has the speed and strength to chase down and apprehend suspects, he’s usually able to convince the bad guys to rethink their decision to run, Arndt said.
“Most of the time his bark is enough to stop that from happening,” he said.
While all business on the job, police dogs like Wasko have what their handlers describe as an uncanny ability to be gentle pets off the job, which is important because they are the constant companions of their handlers and live with them.
For Wasko, that means living in a household with Arndt’s 8-month-old and 3-year-old sons and his 9-year-old golden retriever.
“On the job, he’s what I call very confident, but he turns that off at home,” Arndt said. “My kids will crawl on him and pull his hair, and all he does is walk away if he gets sick of it.
“It’s pretty remarkable, especially when you consider what he can do when he has his game face on.”
Because public relations is part of Wasko’s job description, a gentle demeanor in the appropriate situations is critical.
“He’s literally been petted by thousands of kids,” Arndt said.
As for Rev, he’s still settling into his new home with Swanson and her two dogs.
“Rev isn’t exactly a fan of other dogs yet,” she said.
Police dogs cost $13,000 to purchase and train and require additional annual training and recertification.
Rev was purchased with a $8,000 donation from the Tyler Benjamin Bares Memorial Fund, named for the 26-year-old Fredonia man who died of a heroin overdose in May 2003. Other donations will cover the remainder of the cost, Johnson said.
Wasko was purchased with a $13,000 donation from the late Stan Kass, a Brown Deer philanthropist who funded the purchase of several police dogs in the area.
Rev will become the fourth police dog in the county, joining Wasko, the Mequon Police Department’s German shepherd Iron and the Cedarburg Police Department’s black Labrador Jake.
A 1-1/2-YEAR-OLD German shepherd named Rev, who posed with his handler deputy Becky Swanson outside the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office in Port Washington Monday, will become the department’s second deputy dog next month. The department’s other dog, 4-year-old Wasko, who was with his handler deputy Brad Arndt (background), joined the force in 2015. Photo by Bill Schanen IV