A police-trained Belgian Malinois costs the Modesto police department over $9,000.
But to the family of Sgt. Mike Pershall, an officer killed by a suspected drunk driver while riding his bike off-duty, Ike is a family member. And a beautiful reminder of the father and husband they lost.
Pershall’s boss, Police Chief Galen Carroll, though aware that 3-year-old Ike could easily have five-to-seven more years of police service left to give, would rather sell the dog to the Pershalls for the sum of $1.
It’s not an entirely popular stance. Ike was paid for with taxpayer money. But Ike and Pershall were partners for two years. Chief Carroll thinks it’s the right thing to do.
“It is not a good deal for the police department to lose the dog,” Carroll told the Modesto Bee. “But there is also the human factor of, you have a wife and two kids who just lost their dad, and that’s the family dog….”
Carroll has the support of Modesto Police Canine Association president and K9 handler Daniel Starr, who said the association “absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, supports giving Ike to Pershall’s family.”
“We spend more time with our dogs than we do with our wives and kids … so there is a bond there that no one understands unless they are currently or have been a K9 handler,” Starr said. “But the dogs spend a significant amount of time with our wives and children as well, and there is a significant amount of comfort they bring (to our families) because they know the dogs protect us while we are at work.”
The association was created in 1999 to pay for the ongoing costs of retired canines; vet bills, kenneling and more. The common practice when a dog is retired has been to sell those canines to the handler for $1.
The sale absolves the city of any further financial responsibility for the dog, and that is where the association steps in.
Two weeks before his death, Pershall was promoted to the rank of sergeant. As a result, Ike was to be trained with a new handler. But that hadn’t yet happened and Ike has been with the Pershalls since.
Ike’s original name was Chente. Pershall renamed him as a play on Mike and Ike candy but also after another K9 officer’s dog.
Taking Ike now “would literally be going into a family who just lost their husband and dad and taking another member of the family,” Carroll said.
While Ike was paid for with taxpayer money, the most recent addition to the K9 team was paid for by the Modesto Police Canine Association, Carroll said. So, giving up Ike will be “kind of a wash.”
The Modesto City Council will make its decision about Ike’s future on Tuesday afternoon.