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An esteemed member of the Decatur Police Department is retiring effective January 1.
Ronny, the department's police dog for the last nine-plus years, is already on reduced duty due to hip dyslpasia, an ailment common to dogs. Jim Franze, the city's veteran K-9 officer, told Decatur City Council at its meeting Tuesday night that the dog's ailment first became noticeable a couple of years ago and has gotten considerably worse in the past year.
The dog is now having trouble jumping into the patrol vehicle he and Franze share.
At present, Franze said, the dog — which lives at Franze's home — is being used only when needed "since he gets tossed around a lot" riding in the police vehicle. Despite the ailment, however, Ronny "did a fantastic job" despite pain while working in Allen County last weekend when the Allen authorities had no dog available, according to Franze.
Police Chief Ken Ketzler, who approved the dog's retirement, said his department "is not going to jump right back into it" (obtaining another dog), and when another one is secured, it probably won't be a "dual-purpose" dog. The dual-purpose dog can track, search etc., in addition to being aggressive (attacking, if necessary). The city's next dog will likely be one to do all the functions but be aggressive.
Ronny, a Czech Shepherd, is the deparment's second canine officer, joining the department in 2001. He replaced Ranger, a German Shepherd which suffered an injury and had to be retired after four years, eventually going blind and being put down.
Ronny cost the city $7,200, "so I feel the dog has more than paid for himself," Franze said.
Some of the dog's accomplishments, according to a sheet given out by Franze, include locating nine suspects in 20 tracking cases; 15 area searches; sniffing out five guns and $650,000 of stolen merchandise; seven apprehensions; under preventative action by his presence, three armed robbery suspects, three homicide suspects, two mentally ill suspects; well over 1,000 assists of Decatur and other departments; close to 8,000 searches, some of which turned up narcotics with over $100,000 in street value.
In addition, Franze and Ronny have done demonstrations for thousands of school-age youngsters, service clubs, etc., promoting the K-9 drug program.
Franze thanked council "for putting your trust in me"; Ketzler and Deputy Chief Greg Cook; Habel Animal Hospital, where the dog is treated at cost; and other city officers — "It's a whole team thing with me," Franze said.
Franze's work as K-9 officer was praised by Mayor John Schultz, Ketzler and the Sgt. Lennie Corral, who's on the day shift with Franze.
Ketzer said Ronny with likely live out his life with Franze and his family.