Community donations bring new police dog to Millstadt

News-DemocratMay 8, 2014 

The newest member of the Millstadt Police Department will graduate from the academy Friday.

Ace, a nearly 1-year-old Belgium Malanois, joins the force, thanks to donations from local businesses and members of the community.

"I think it shows the support for the canine department," said Chief Ed Wilkerson. "Definitely the people of Millstadt support the canine program."

Tom Martindale, owner of Four Pines Firm Arms in Millstadt, gave a $2,000 donation -- enough for the police department to purchase the pooch from Belleville Officer Brian Dowdy, who selected Ace as a pup and trained him.

Martindale, who is also a deputy marshal who volunteers for the police department, said the dog benefits the entire town.

"It's more of an asset to the community and the businesses in town," he said. "In my opinion, the dog is a deterrent to crime."

Other businesses, organizations and churches, as well as private citizens, donated more than $1,500 to pay for training.

Ace lives and works with his partner, Officer Gary Reuter.

Hanks Excavating and Landscaping in Belleville donated the concrete for Ace's kennel in Reuter's backyard. Lee's Home Center in Millstadt donated the chain link fence to enclose the kennel.

"You could kind of call it a childhood dream," Reuter said, "My grandfather was a canine handler in Belleville back in the '60s."

In addition, Reuter worked with Millstadt Officer Joe Wagner who was partnered with Chaos, a police dog who retired in February.

"I really got to see that in-depth bond you receive with the dog. It really kind of grabbed my attention even more," Reuter said.

Ace joined the force in February and has been in training since April 1. The police department will receive a certification from the state of Illinois noting the completion of the course.

"It's pretty intense training," Reuter said. "They ask a lot of the dogs to get them to respond ... the dog has to have the trust in you and you've got to trust him."

Ace is one of seven dogs who will complete the police dog training with Dowdy on Friday. The other dogs are from St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, Brooklyn, Carlinville, Hillsdale, Mo., CSX Railroad, and Metro Transit public safety.

Ace is a dual purpose police dog who will be used for narcotics -- sniffing out drugs -- and patrol, including tracking a suspect after an armed robbery.

While he's been out and about with Reuter, he has yet to sniff out his first crime.

"He's still a puppy," Reuter said of his four-legged partner. "He's very good, a fairly social dog. He can be petted, as of now."

Ace really hasn't shown any type of aggression against anyone unless instructed to do so, Reuter said.

He gets along well with Reuter's wife, Kelly, and his children, 4-year-old Chloe and 2-year-old Noah.

Reuter praised Dowdy's work as a police dog trainer and handler. "He's by far one of the best that I've heard of and now I've actually witnessed myself," he said. "He's kind of a like a dog whisperer. He can take a dog that someone is having problems with and fix any kind of problems."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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