Ryder, the St. Helens Police Department's beloved and highly effective patrol dog, will soon be enjoying life as a civilian.
That's because the police agency will be retiring K-9 Ryder and will be searching for a replacement.
Police Chief Brian Greenway made the announcement at a recent city council work session, held Wednesday, Oct. 6.
In 2016, Ryder, a German shepherd, joined the St. Helens Police Department as a K-9 officer. Ryder's addition to the force came after two years with no serving police dog in St. Helens.
In summer 2016, the police department received Ryder from Vohne Liche Kennels, a business in California that specializes in training military service and police dogs.
Prior to Ryder, the St. Helens police agency benefited from the services of Lycos, a K-9 officer who retired from the force in November 2014.
At the council session, Greenway described Ryder as a "fantastic tool" serving his department.
"I have to tell you, we need a K-9 dog," Greenway said. "Because it's more rural out here, the use of Ryder, our K-9 dog, is very frequent, and he's very good."
Greenway noted that Ryder's apprehension rate exceeds 80% to 85%.
But the life of a working dog is hard, and as dogs age, they naturally slow down.
"Ryder has reached his shelf life," Greenway said. "He was recently recertified last week by the state of Oregon to do another year, but this will be the last year."
Next budget year, the St. Helens Police Department will be asking for approximately $25,000, which is the cost for another dog to keep the program going. The cost includes the purchase and training of the dog.
The purchase will need to go through the city's budget process, Greenway said. If approved, the purchase could be made sometime after July 2022.
It takes approximately three months to purchase the police K-9, train and receive certification before the handler and dog can serve the community.
Over the years, Ryder has proved effective in assisting the police department in catching suspects.
"The police K-9 has a unique impact on the community," Greenway said. "These animals serve a myriad of missions with their unique abilities, from drug enforcement, to search-and-rescue, to apprehending fleeing subjects."
Citing a particular example, Greenway told councilors, "In 2018, we had a sexual assault suspect attempt to sexually assault a female with a knife. Ryder was able to apprehend that suspect, who fled on feet, and retrieved the evidence."
Greenway added that Ryder has been successful countless other times in catching violent offenders in the community.
The value of a K-9 goes beyond crime-fighting, though, Greenway pointed out.
"The only thing a resident loves better than a dog is a police horse," Greenway quipped. "I don't want a horse."
The chief described Ryder and other K-9 officers as "ambassadors of the department." They attend events, and photos and footage are used for promotional purposes.
As to life for a K-9 after retirement, Greenway said his department gives the handler the option to keep the police dog as a family pet. K-9s already typically live with their handler, although care is taken to treat them as a working animal and partner rather than as a pet — at least until they retire.
Looking at the future, Greenway said, "Hopefully, we continue the program and get another good canine dog. Sgt. Jon Eggers has committed that he will be involved in the canine program to transition to the next handler, through the selection process."
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