K9 Odie is new member of Rochelle Police Department

K9 Odie is the newest member of the Rochelle Police Department and was recently paired with his new handler, Officer Trevor Owen.

Community fundraising efforts for K9 program double goal

ROCHELLE — K9 Odie is the newest member of the Rochelle Police Department and was recently paired with his new handler, Officer Trevor Owen. 

K9 Axel, Odie’s predecessor, retired last year and his handler, Officer Ryan Beery, was promoted to sergeant. Owen began a local fundraising campaign to pay for startup and ongoing costs of a new K9. Owen picked up the dog Feb. 17 and he and Odie recently embarked on a six-week training course in Michigan.

“Once we're done with that, we'll be certified nationally,” Owen said. “And then once we're back on the road, it'll be back into the rhythm for me and getting Odie used to the car, regular patrol and hopefully being able to utilize him to his full extent as far as traffic stops, school searches and community events. It will be getting him acclimated along with myself. It'll take some time, but I think he'll adjust pretty well."

Owen and Beery traveled to Michigan to go through the process of selecting Odie and had the chance to demo several different dogs and breeds. Owen wanted to make sure the selected K9 was the right fit for both the community and his family, which is who Odie will spend his off-duty time with. 

RPD wanted to make sure it got a “level-headed” K9 that is able to participate in community outreach and events along with tasks while policing.

“We think we got that in Odie,” Owen said. “That's part of the program. It's not just drugs and searching and things like that. It's also community outreach and different events we like to attend.”

RPD set a $15,000 fundraising goal to bring a K9 back to the department. Through a bowling fundraiser, community donations, raffles and being chosen for a grant, it was able to raise around $30,000 for its K9 program. 

After expenses for the purchase and training of Odie, the rest of the money will be used to fund the program into the future, going towards expenses such as dog food, medical bills, K9 unit car parts, equipment and ongoing training. Owen called the fundraising venture “challenging, yet exciting.”

“It was new to me,” Owen said. “I saw the community rally around the program. It was pretty cool to see how many people were supportive of a program like that. You don't see that everywhere. I know a lot of agencies that struggle to keep their K9 program and to watch the big businesses and the community come together to kind of say, 'Hey, we want this program,' it was really neat to see."

RPD Chief Eric Higby said he was happy to see the K9 program continue within the department and called a K9 “a great tool” to aid in getting drugs out of vehicles, tracking people and missing articles, and use as a community outreach tool.

“The way a community loves a K9 is great,” Higby said. “Events like National Night Out and things like that, it does bring the community together and it gives them an opportunity to interact with us outside of the normal scope. The dog really does bind the community and the department."

Higby said a K9’s career with a department depends on each dog, but said Odie could be working with the department for 8-10 years before retirement. He enjoys the fact that the community was part of bringing Odie to Rochelle. 

“I'm really happy that the community came together like that and helped us with it,” Higby said. “That's one reason why we do it that way, is so we can meet the people out there and they can meet us and we can work together on that project. Because if we just paid for it, that's fine and great, but this gives them an opportunity to feel and be involved."

RPD is currently seeing changes within the department as retirements occur and younger officers are moved into positions of more responsibility, such as being K9 handler. Higby credited Owen for his work on the fundraiser and continuing the K9 program.

“He's one of our most active officers and I'm really looking forward to what he can produce once he gets through the training with Odie,” Higby said. “It was great to see him take the initiative with the fundraiser. When you have that kind of enthusiasm and you're willing to go out and do the work for a fundraiser, and it's a lot of work, you know he's going to be successful with the program. Because he wants it to happen."