By Brandi Makuski
Stevens Point police will welcome a new K9 dog into their ranks by mid-December.
Alana, an eight-month-old Belgian Malinois, was born in the Netherlands but has already spent most of her life training for public service at Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana. Last week, Alana met her new partner, Stevens Point Police Officer JD Ballew, after being identified as one of several dogs ideal for the new partnership.
“When they took her into the narcotics room to demo her, she had a nice pace, a good transition from narcotic work to apprehension,” Ballew said on Friday.
Alana is a dual-purpose dog, Ballew said, trained in narcotics detection as well as locating suspects or missing persons. She’ll do the same kind of work as Ballew’s former K9 partner, Luna, who died from multiple organ failure in early September.
“It was tough,” Ballew said of considering a new dog. “The biggest fear I had was going in there with ‘Luna expectations.’ I had to remind myself it was a totally different dog.”
The dog, too, had some apprehension, Ballew said. She’s spent each day of her life working with different trainers, making it hard for her to bond.
When he first met Alana on Tuesday, she “didn’t listen to me at all,” but showed marked improvement each day until Friday when she was following virtually all of Ballew’s commands, he said.
Luna was one of two dogs SPPD purchased when it installed the K9 unit in 2018. Her counterpart, K9 Fala, partners with Officer Austin Lee.
Following Luna’s death, Police Chief Martin Skibba said the department would seek a new dog to replace Luna, and that Ballew would continue working in the K9 program. Several days later, Sentry Insurance Foundation announced a donation of $20,000 to the department to cover the costs associated with purchasing another K9 dog.
The K9 program cost the department about $50,000 to implement—an ongoing fundraiser through the sale of t-shirts, stuffed dogs, and K9 calendars. Dog food is donated by JayMar in Plover, and free basic veterinary services are provided by Stevens Point Animal Center.
Alana will live with Ballew, his family, and two other dogs at their home in Stevens Point. So far, he said, Alana is a hit.
“She flopped on her back right away for a belly rub from my youngest,” he said.
Ballew and Alana return to Vohne Liche Kennels on Monday for six weeks of training. The two are expected to report back to Stevens Point for duty on Dec. 17.