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MFA grant helps bring new K9 officer to Cooper County

For Cooper County Sheriff’s Sergeant Aaron Schanzmeyer, his most valuable tool isn’t a firearm, handcuffs, baton or Taser. It’s his furry, four-legged K9 companion named Kreed.

“Whether it’s tracking down bad guys or sniffing out drugs, a dog can assist us with things that humans simply can’t do,” Schanzmeyer said. “It’s such an important tool.”
Kreed, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix, joined the sheriff’s department in September to replace the previous K9 dog, Echo, who was medically retired from duty earlier this year.

“Echo is getting the treatment he needs right now at the Warrior Dog Foundation in Dallas, Texas, which provides rehabilitation for retired police and military dogs and rehomes them,” Schanzmeyer said. “He’s doing well.”

When Echo left the force, the department was faced with the expensive proposition of purchasing another K9 to fill his role. The cost of a police dog alone starts around $9,000, Schanzmeyer said, not including training, equipment, veterinary bills and other expenses. The community rallied to help raise funds, with MFA Incorporated’s Charitable Foundation contributing $7,500 to the cause.

“The community really came together, and MFA’s significant donation was a huge help,” said Schanzmeyer, whose wife, Paige, is assistant manager at MFA Agri Services in Boonville. “Without it, we may not have been able to get Kreed so soon.”

Over the summer, Schanzmeyer traveled to Pennsylvania to select Kreed from Shallow Creek Kennels, which specializes in providing law enforcement agencies with K9 dogs imported from Europe. Kreed was born in Hungary, one of the countries known for producing high-quality service dogs bred specifically to perform the complicated tasks of military and police work.

The Belgian Malinois-German shepherd cross is one of the most popular choices for this type of service because the dogs have an intense drive, focus, agility and sense of smell. In fact, compared to a human nose with 5 million olfactory receptors, these breeds have around 250 million, giving them incredible scent detection and tracking abilities.

“Kreed is trained to find cocaine, meth (methamphetamine), heroin and all the derivatives, such as Ecstasy and crack, and they all have a different smell,” Schanzmeyer explained. “In class, the trainer described it as the ‘stew theory.’ When humans smell stew cooking in a Crock-Pot, we only recognize it as stew. What these dogs smell are the carrots, the beef, the celery, the spices—all these things individually. That’s how they distinguish between different scents.”

Kreed is now enrolled in an eight-week training academy hosted by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department in Columbia. He should complete the course just before Christmas, certifying him for active service through the North American Police Working Dog Association and the Missouri Police Canine Association. Even though Schanzmeyer is now a seasoned handler, he is going through the course with his new K9 partner, which is part of the team-building process. The training includes work in narcotics, personal protection, tracking and searches along with basic obedience.

“Obedience is the foundation of all the work,” Schanzmeyer said. “He has to follow my commands and listen to me without being distracted by what’s going on around him. That’s step one, and then we add on to that.”

Despite the seriousness of the work, Kreed considers it a game, Schanzmeyer explained. Training a dog to detect specific materials involves associating a particular smell with a reward—in this case, it’s a toy. Over time, the dog learns to actively seek out this scent, alerting the handler when they’ve located it. Kreed is trained to sit or lay down when he’s detected the odor.

“This is all play to him,” Schanzmeyer said, as he engages in tug-of-war with Kreed after the dog successfully uncovers a hidden stash of meth on an old Chevy Cavalier used in training. “Sniffing cars is fun because he knows he will get his toy, and he will get big praise from me. That’s his paycheck.”

Watching police dogs at perform their extraordinary work is what inspired Schanzmeyer’s path to a law enforcement career. For his high school senior project in 2011, he shadowed Boonville Police Department’s K9 Unit and decided to enroll in the police academy with hopes of eventually becoming a handler.

“That project sparked the idea of being a cop, and seeing the dog work really confirmed it,” Schanzmeyer said. “I first worked with Lake Ozark Police Department, and when Paige and I got engaged, we moved back to Boonville, which was closer to both families. In 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to handle the dog for the county. This was always my dream. And I love it. I love dogs in general, but I really like the specialized things they can do.”

Schanzmeyer began working with Cooper County’s first police dog, Grimm, after the original handler left the department. In 2021, just a few months before the dog’s retirement, Grimm and Schanzmeyer located 76 pounds of methamphetamine, worth about $1 million, in a vehicle during a traffic stop on I-70. The deputy counts that as one of the biggest successes of his career so far.

The now 10-year-old Grimm is living the good life as the Schanzmeyers’ pet. Kreed, too, resides with the family in a climate-controlled kennel. This proximity not only makes it easier for Schanzmeyer to answer a call for service, but it also helps strengthen the connection between the partners. They’re constant companions, both on the job and at home.

“He’s just not another tool we can pull out of the back of the car and use. We need that bond,” Schanzmeyer said. “And that bond is the greatest part of this job. He always wants to please me, just like any other dog, and in doing so, he’s protecting me, protecting the other deputies and protecting the community. He really is man’s best friend.”

The MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation—separate from MFA’s annual scholarship program—provides monetary support for worthy projects that build knowledge and leadership skills of rural youth, agriculture and cooperative education programs, and or­ganizations active in solving community problems and improving quality of life. Grant requests require an MFA employee sponsor. Learn more and find a link where organizations can apply here: mfa-inc.com/About/Charity

Read More of the December 2023 / January 2024 Today's Farmer magazine Issue.

 

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