BELLEVILLE — Guilty, a 4-year-old German shepherd, joined the Belleville Police Department in October, thanks to the donations from the public.
More than $20,000 was raised through private donations during a six-month period.
"It's amazing. We really appreciate it. I mean you just can't say enough," said Guilty's partner and handler Belleville Police Officer Brian Dowdy.
"You can't thank the citizens enough. You can't thank people like Roger Wigginton enough."
Wigginton, who own Don Rodgers Ltd. on West Main Street, said he is passionate about making the city of Belleville a safe place to live and raise a family. He spearheaded the campaign using his time to call potential donors, contact the media and print fliers.
"It's amazing that someone outside the police department would take time to do something like that," Dowdy said.
Wigginton had raised $7,000 in November, but set a goal of reaching $20,000 by the end of the year.
At 3 p.m. on Dec. 31, he hit his goal.
The BelleCity Kennel Club was the lead donator with $3,000, Wigginton said.
"We had checks for $1,000, for $500, $100, but we also had $5, $10, $50 donations," he said. "But in the end it all added up."
All the money was raised through donations; there were no fundraising events, Wigginton said.
"The people of Belleville know how important it is to have a strong canine department," he said.
Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax said, "We were just absolutely elated," when the department heard Wigginton reached his goal.
"That's just incredibly awesome."
Guilty, who is dual trained for narcotics and patrol work, cost $7,500, Sax said.
But that's not the final price of owning and caring for a police dog.
"There's so many other costs that are indirect, with training and time and all the equipment," Sax said.
"When you get into buying police dogs, it's a very strict thing," Sax explained. "There are special breeders and they're (the dogs) usually a couple years old to make sure ... they have the right level of aggression and discipline."
Guilty, like many Belleville residents, has strong ties to Germany, where he was born and partially trained.
Residents might see the 128-pound Guilty searching for drugs, sniffing the trail of a bad guy on the loose, performing canine demonstrations or just out getting some exercise.
"He's social. He's almost like a jokester," Dowdy described his partner. "He's a little bull headed, like sometimes you have to motivate him to do things if he doesn't feel like he wants to do them. He'll just sit down and look at you sometimes."
Dowdy, 40, is an animal lover who always wanted to train police dogs.
He has been at the Belleville Police Department for 13 years. In 2003, he went to school for six months to learn how to train police dogs. He helped form the Belleville Police Canine Academy and has trained more than 200 dogs for more than 30 police departments.
"That's really the only reason I'm a police officer," he said. "That's what I wanted to do when I started this job ... and that's hopefully how I'll end my career."
Dowdy also cares for Art, a previous Belleville police dog, who retired in July after an injury.
Since Art and Guilty are both dominant male dogs, Dowdy keeps the dogs apart to avoid quarrels. "I don't let them interact with each other," Dowdy said. "Art stays in the house with me, while Guilty stays in the yard."
Guilty continues to train with Dowdy, but he's already helped solve some crimes.
In December, after a retail theft was reported at Kmart, Guilty "ran a track" and located the suspect, Dowdy said.
Dowdy expressed his appreciation to those who donated.
"The people that give, how do you ever thank them?" he asked. "Except to go out and do a good job."
If you would like to contribute to future expenses for Guilty and the other four police canines on the Belleville force, you can send a check written to the Belleville Police Department, with "Canine fund" on the memo line, to Roger Wigginton at Don Rodgers, 6727 W. Main St., Belleville, IL 62223.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at email@example.com or 618-239-2460.