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L-R: Officer Seth Pionke, Sarah Smith-Jahn, Chris Adams, and Plover Police Chief Ryan Fox. (Metro Wire photo)

Section 715 honors K9 Bill with in memoriam donation

By Brandi Makuski

When Sarah Smith-Jahn heard about the death of Plover Police K9 Bill, she knew she had to do something.

Smith-Jahn, along with fiance Chris Adams, own and operate Section 715 Throwing Co. in Plover, a wildly popular axe-throwing business with a history of supporting area law enforcement. The duo presented Officer Seth Pionke, Bill’s former human partner, and Chief Ryan Fox, with a $250 donation on Monday.

“These guys just do so much for our community so it was kind of a no-brainer to help out,” Smith-Jahns said on June 24. “They just do so much to keep drugs off the streets.”

Bill served the Plover Police Department from 2017 until he was medically retired following a cancer diagnosis in 2021, and continued to live with Pionke and his family after retirement. The dog was in remission but developed health complications on the evening of June 18 and was put down a little after 3 p.m. the following morning.

Monday marked the first time Pionke spoke to the press about the death of his longtime companion.

“I’ve had other dogs put down, but you have a different relationship with a K9 dog,” Pionke said. “It’s, I don’t know, more intense, I guess. You’re so in sync with each other because you have to be.”

Pionke met with Smith-Jahn, Adams, and Chief Ryan Fox, on Monday morning to accept the donation shortly before he left to pick up Bill’s ashes. For now, he plans to keep them with his family at home.

“But I think there should be a little piece of him [at PPD], but for right now, home is kind of where I want him…but I know he belongs in both places,” Pionke said.

Fox said for anyone who doesn’t work with K9 dogs, it’s hard to understand how difficult it is to find a dog that fits what law enforcement needs.

“I don’t think most people understand how hard it is to get a dog that can not only do like, what it needs to do business-wise but then to walk into a school and hang out and lay down with the kids,” Fox said. “It’s really hard to find that one that can kind of do it all. That’s what makes them worth $20,000.”

Fox added, “Isn’t it amazing that one of the most useful tools in your department is basically started by donations and funded for the most part by donations? The public support for the K9 program matters more than anything else and it’s one of the most valuable tools.”

Fox said the department is considering installing a memorial tree or plaque in honor of Bill on the PD grounds, where other K9 dogs’ names can be added over the years.

Section 715 is planning a K9 fundraiser in August, pitting deputies in Portage and Wood counties against each other on the axe-throwing lanes to benefit both K9 programs. Details will be released soon, Smith-Jahn said.