BY NAOMI KOWLES
For the Star Journal
Rhinelander Lions Club is sponsoring a raffle event next Friday to raise support for the next Rhinelander police K-9 unit. Chief Lloyd Gauthier says the department is currently about $12,000 short of its $40,000 goal, after a round of fundraising with various local businesses and organizations in the past few weeks.
Gauthier and officer Chad Brown, who has been selected as the next K-9 handler, are hoping to meet the program’s financial goals next Friday, with several prizes up for grabs. A $20 raffle tickets buys a chance at a number of prizes, including $1,000 cash, an AR-15, Ruger .22 pistol, and two handcrafted coffee tables, one of which is etched with a Hodag design and the second to be engraved with the winner’s choice of art.
The fundraiser, organized by Lion Jill McDonald, will take place June 15 at People’s State Bank on Lincoln Street; from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Trig’s, and from Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary members.
The process has been picking up steam, with Brown having chosen a kennel from which to purchase the dog. Jessiffany Canine Services in Iron Ridge is operated by Jessie and Tiffany Smith and specializes in training imported service dogs for police and civilian use as well as “24/7 Battle Buddy” dogs, which are raised to partner with injured veterans. Brown said Jessie Smith has been involved in K-9 handling throughout his career and has trained dogs for the Marine Corps, and that his dogs are utilized across the nation. Handlers who have purchased dogs from Jessiffany “have nothing but great things” to say about the kennel, Brown noted.
Dogs from Jessiffany cost $10,000, with the training process beginning after the dog is paired with its handler. Four weeks of training following Brown’s selection of the K-9 will cost an additional $3,000, but will include a year of monthly maintenance visits, Brown said. He noted that the training philosophies of the kennel matched what he was looking for in a K-9, and that he wanted a German or Dutch shepherd.
“We want a dog I can bring into a class and not be worried,” he explained, with temperament and social skills being key factors in his ultimate choice. “I want to make sure it’s not aggressive to other dogs, other people, other kids.”
Brown hopes to start training with the chosen K-9 in September. Former K-9 officer Drago retired from service at the beginning of this year, and Brown was chosen in March to succeed Drago’s handler, officer Angela Mertz, as the next K-9 handler.