K-9 Officer Major arrives in Willmar
WILLMAR — Christmas came early for the Willmar Police Department in the form of a one-year old German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix named Major.
"We're very excited to have him here," said Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt. Major, once he and his human handler Patrol Officer Sam Schaefbauer go through over four months of training, will be Willmar's second K-9 officer duo, joining Axel and Patrol Officer Chris Flatten.
"It was something I always wanted to do," said Schaefbauer, about becoming a K-9 handler with the Police Department.
Major arrived in Willmar nearly three weeks early, because the department ahead of Willmar was unable to accept delivery of the dog. Felt and Schaefbauer picked up Major at Performance Kennels Inc. in Buffalo.
However, Major has traveled much farther to get to his new home. He was born in Slovakia and has been raised there for the past 12 months. For his trip halfway across the globe, Major even had his own passport.
Major will be trained in both patrol duties, including suspect apprehension and article searches, and in narcotics searching. He and Schaefbauer will start their narcotics training at the end of January and patrol training later in the spring.
"We are both learning, Major and I," Schaefbauer said.
Until school begins, the two are spending the time to get to know each other, along with showing Major the ropes at the Police Department.
"He is very playful so far, very friendly," Schaefbauer said.
"There is still a lot of puppy in him," added Felt.
A large part of Schaebauer's day now is to teach Major, which includes a lot of training exercises disguised as play.
"We're working on the doggy basics right now," Felt said.
One of Schaefbauer's first responsibilities when he brought Major home was to choose the dog's name. As it did when Axel arrived in the community, the Willmar Police Department asked elementary-age students of Willmar to submit names for the new police dog. This time around there were more than 1,200 entries, and Schaefbauer went through all of them.
"We had the whole gamut of names. Buddy was the most popular, Max, there were a few Princesses," Schaefbauer said.
In the end Schaefbauer, chose Major for the all-black dog.
"It felt like it fit him the best. It was a unique name," Schaefbauer said.
Three students submitted the name Major. They were Jacob Sietsema, a fourth-grader at Roosevelt Elementary and kindergartners Jake Nelson and Ethan Green at Community Christian School.
Once Major is far enough along in his training to be comfortable spending time in a room full of kids, he and Schaefbauer will meet with the winning students and the students will be photographed with them too. Major and Schaefbauer will also visit the classrooms at the schools.
Felt hopes Major will be ready for duty by late spring or early summer. He appreciates the City Council approving the purchase of a new dog, which was paid for through drug forfeiture funds.
Felt believes the partnership of Major and Schaefbauer will be a success for the department and the community.
"Sam is a very capable officer. They'll make a great team together," Felt said.