Arko will hang up his police vest
With nearly a decade of police work under his collar, one of the Newberg-Dundee Police Department's patrol officers is retiring after suffering a knee injury last month.
Arko, an 11-year-old German shepherd, joined the force nine years ago. His handler is Officer Steve Schoening, who worked with police dogs for two years before getting paired up with Arko in 2010.
The two have been an inseparable pair since they first started, whether they were out on patrol or playing fetch at the park.
The injury Arko suffered was to a ligament in his knee, which he tore during a routine training exercise. Schoening and the NDPD decided that Arko deserved to relax and recover for the remainder of his life given his age and the severity of the injury.
"We wanted to give him a comfortable retirement," NDPD Public Information Officer Brian Hagen said. "The rigors of police work haven't changed and we can't expect him to go out there, jump around and be active. If he were 5 or 6 years old, this would be different."
Arko had an illustrious career in police work, earning his fair share of treats and belly rubs along the way. He logged 51 captures of criminals or other people in the field and was a certified article search dog – meaning he could use his nose to find evidence in a forest, field or residential area.
"You can train these dogs to find items that have been thrown or pieces of evidence that have been discarded," Hagen said. "They use their nose to find it and on two occasions Arko found firearms that had been dropped by suspects – one of which was used in an attempted murder in Yamhill County."
Hagen said he visited Arko at Schoening's residence, where the canine is recovering well from surgery to repair his knee. While Schoening will keep Arko as the family pet, he will no longer have a police dog with him in the field for the first time in 11 years.
The police department plans to meet with a police dog "vendor" in California later this month to find a replacement for Arko, with the new dog likely coming to Newberg in the early part of next year. The dogs are shipped from Europe and are bred specifically for police work and the military. The NDPD's K-9 officer Sam – a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois who joined NDPD earlier this year – came from there as well.
Arko's replacement will join Sam as one of two patrol dogs in NDPD's possession. The department's other dog is a Labrador retriever named Ruka, who works in drug detection.
"It's no guarantee after testing and some preliminary training whether or not a dog is going to be successful," Hagen said. "Sometimes you have to try out a couple different dogs to make sure they're up to the standards of Oregon police work."
While they are looking forward to adding a new dog into the fold, along with a new handler, Arko leaves behind a significant legacy with the department.
He is part of the family, Hagen said, and people at the NDPD office and throughout the department will miss him.
"Arko was the mascot for our police department and for our community," Hagen said. "Everybody loves the dogs and wants to meet them and see what they do. It's sad for the handler, Steve, but it's also a loss for the rest of us at work and for the community.
"He's looking good right now. When I visited him the other day and he saw me in uniform, he got excited thinking maybe he was going to go back to work. Now he just gets to enjoy retirement."
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