K9, police officer retiring together after long service

After 10 years, police dog Toby retired this week from the Bellefontaine Police Department.

Toby, a Belgian malinois, began working along side Officer Scott Stewart when he was about 1 year old.

“He fit right in. He was very sociable. Real good narcotic dog. And he’s a dual-purpose dog who was trained for tracking, criminal apprehension. That’s why he’s worked in our program so good,” Stewart said.

Toby is trained for criminal apprehension, personal protection and has been used for finding narcotics, illegal contraband, and tracking suspects and lost children.

But he can also be playful.

“(He’s) just a typical dog at home, just like you would have at home as a pet,” Stewart said. “… These dogs are going to be dogs until we tell them to do something different.”

Stewart also plans to retire on Aug. 20 after beginning his career in law enforcement as a dispatcher and then a patrolman. He later became a K9 handler after convincing a former police chief in 1997 to establish a police dog unit at the department.

A decade is fairly long career for a K9 officer. Stewart was placed with two police dogs prior to receiving Toby. His first K9 died of cancer at 8 years old. A second dog was sent back to his trainer because he was “too hard to handle” and wasn’t a good fit for the community.

Toby arrived after being picked out from Dublin, a suburb of Columbus.

Chief Brandon Standley said Toby has had a great career at the Bellefontaine Police Department. Standley said he remembers when Toby first arrived.

He said Toby has lived and worked with Stewart ever since.

“Toby and his handler Scott Stewart have been a team for 10 years, but to them it probably seems like an eternity because that’s a 24-hour job, seven days a week,” Standley said.

A decision about whether to replace Toby or not will be made in the early fall or winter, the chief said. To buy another dog and equipment and train a handler can cost about $50,000. The department is working with city council and community members on fundraising for a possible replacement, including a safety event and chicken dinner on Aug. 15.

Toby and Stewart will remain partners after both retire. Stewart plans to keep Toby on his farm.

“We’re kind of going to go out together,” Stewart said. “I’ve been attached to him ever since he was a year old and he has to me. Once a dog gets so old, at his age he’s really not really suitable now to be put with another animal so he’s going to retire with me and spend the rest of his time on my farm with us, me and my wife … He’s part of the family.”

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