Officer JD Ballew with his new partner, Barry. (Metro Wire photo)

Stevens Point police welcome new K9 dog, Barry

By Brandi Makuski

Stevens Point police closed out the week on a high note Friday, welcoming a new K9 dog to its force.

K9 Barry is a 17-month-old Belgian Malinois from the Netherlands.

Barry is a replacement dog for Alana, who the department previously announced would be its newest K9 officer. Alana was intended to replace K9 Luna, who died in September of multiple organ failure.

“It was difficult going down to look at another dog,” said Officer JD Ballew, who was Luna’s K9 handler. “I had to remember to not have ‘Luna expectations,’ that every dog was different.”

But Police Chief Martin Skibba said Alana fell a little short when it came to suspect apprehension and officer protection, which Ballew discovered while training with her at Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana.

Ballew was introduced to three possible replacement dogs about two weeks ago, Barry among them. So far, he said, the dog is a hit.

“We’ve put in a lot of hours, but it’s been a great experience so far,” Ballew said, adding Barry loves to give Ballew hugs, and the dog is also a fan of shoelaces and hoodie strings.

“He’ll be a great addition to the community,” Ballew said. “His drug tracking is just phenomenal.”

Ballew said because of the short time he’s had with Barry, he plans to return to Von Liche sometime in January for some additional training. Barry will begin his patrol duties with Ballew Dec. 27.

The Stevens Point Police Department installed its K9 unit in April 2018 to help address the city’s rising drug problem. Both dogs are trained in scent tracking meth, crack, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and in article tracking and suspect apprehension.

The dogs, training, and equipment, cost the department an initial investment of about $50,000, which the department offset with donations. Sentry donated $20,000 to the K9 program in September to help pay for replacing Luna.

Police say the dogs have been a big help in combating crime in the area. Last year, K9 dogs were also used to track down a suspect who stole a car in rural Portage Co. then hid in a 200-acre cornfield, according to the department’s other K9 handler, Officer Austin. “It’s amazing what these dogs can do,” he said.

In November, Austin and his partner, Fala, helped during a search of Comfort Suites during a Thanksgiving Day shooting on the city’s north side.

Lt. Steve Spath, who oversees the K9 program, said the program will be paid for with drug forfeitures, along with an anticipated $5,000-$8,000 in annual donations.

The department sells K9 swag to help support the program. Challenge coins, stuffed K9 dogs, and t-shirts are for sale at the records window of the Stevens Point Police Department, 933 Michigan Ave.

About 70 stuffed Alana dogs were sold in an effort to support the purchase of the new dog, according to Skibba. Anyone who’s purchased an Alana doll can drop by the department and swap it out for a Barry doll, which will be in stock sometime in January.