Sunday, December 16, 2018
K-9 Officer Brian James of the Sparta Police Department works with Larz, a German Shepherd K-9 police dog that is recovering from knee surgery. Herald photo by Tim Evans.

Sparta's police dog on injured reserve

The Sparta Police Department is down a nose.

Larz, the 7.5 year-old German Shepherd K-9 that has been part of the police force since 2015 suffered a knee injury that has sidelined the dog for the past six weeks and is likely to keep him out of action for at least another six to nine weeks.

The dog is essential in sniffing out narcotics, tracking criminals, criminal apprehension and handler protection but when handler Brian James, an officer since 2011, noticed the K-9 was suffering with a limp, he knew something wasn’t right.

The two were issuing a search warrant about 9 p.m. one night when James noticed that Larz had a little limp on his left hind leg. After putting a bullet-proof vest on the dog, Larz tried jumping up into the squad vehicle and may have hit his knee, injuring it more. “We knew something was wrong,” he said.

A couple days later, the dog stopped using the leg all together and that was when James decided it was time to take Larz to veterinarian Dr. Randy Pribbernow, owner of Sparta Small Animal Veterinary Clinic.

The dog underwent knee surgery, James explaining the knee had to be broken and replaced, six screws inserted to keep it in place.

James said it was difficult to keep Larz bed-bound, noting, “he’s a very active dog” and said he had to use medication to keep him calm for the first week and hurting the leg even more.

“After five days, he wasn’t limping as much,” James said, noting the dog is going though all kinds of therapy including a special water exercise while on a tread mill.

James said it could take up to four months before Larz is 100 percent, but said he should be back to some duty after 12 weeks and full duty after 15 weeks.

He said the surgery was costly, but a special K-9 Fund set up by the department paid for the operation. “That’s one big reason we do fundraising,” James said, noting a recent pizza fundraiser helped fill the void as well as a first-time Spring golf outing at River Run in Sparta.

He said the dog is having regular check-ups and is also doing a lot of “home therapy” that includes stretches and short walks.  He said Larz usually has about 16 to 24 hours of police training every month and will be glad to have him back in action.

“We’ve missed him,” James said.  Larz has been a police dog since 2012 when James worked for Vernon County, coming to Sparta in 2015.

But James is quick to point out Larz’ K-9 partner in crime, Kaiser, another Sparta police dog, has been taking on double-duty and the officer said there have been a couple of times they’ve had to ask for assistance from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit in special cases.

He said drug offenders shouldn’t feel comfortable with Larz out of action, knowing he has some great noses backing him up.

Evans Print & Media Group

1302 River Rd.
P.O. Box 252

Sparta, WI 54656-0252

Office Number: (608) 269-3186
Fax Number: (608) 269-6876


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