Police department mourns loss of K-9

Published 2:03 pm Monday, August 25, 2008

Months after Victor’s death, the Helena Police Department is still grieving.

Victor, the department’s beloved K-9 German Shepherd, died April 27.

His handler, Lt. Ivy Penhale, said Victor had to be put to sleep because his legs and back were in chronic pain after losing the use of his hind legs.

“The problems were causing so much pain, and he couldn’t walk. The vet tried to do everything he could, short of surgery, but he got to where nobody could handle him but myself,” Penhale said. “He started getting worse to where the pain was so great he wouldn’t let anybody handle him.”

Victor was cremated upon his death, but there will eventually be a marker placed at Helena City Hall to honor him, Penhale said.

Victor, who was 11 when he died, was with the Helena PD for nine years. He was a dual-purpose K-9, which means he was able to carry out multiple tasks such as searching for narcotics, tracking in the woods and searching buildings for humans.

However, Victor’s most important role wasn’t sniffing out drugs or bringing down the bad guys. In fact, Victor was a public relations specialist for the police department, dealing mostly with schoolchildren.

“A lot of kids loved him. He was very friendly,” Penhale said.

That friendliness is what the Helena officers miss most about Victor. Sgt. Brad Flynn said his children loved coming to see him at work because of the possibility Victor would be there.

“He was great with my kids. He’d flop on his back, and they got a big kick out of that,” Flynn said. “He was just like one of the guys around here. He’d come in and want to be petted. He wouldn’t take no for an answer when he wanted something.”

While officers in the department still remember Victor, there’s a new K-9 who’s taken over his duties. Victor actually retired in December 2006, and the department purchased Bak in October 2007. Bak finished his training in April of this year and has been working with the department since then.

Bak has found his own place within the department.

“Dogs are just like people. They all have their own personality,” Penhale said. “(Bak) is more focused, waiting to be told what to do. Victor was always ready to go out. If he saw someone and wanted to walk over to them, he would if he wasn’t on his leash.”

Flynn said Bak has adjusted well to the officers in the department.

“It’s just like when another officer comes in, we have to get used to him,” Flynn said. “He’s got a great personality, and I think he’s going to fit in well here.”

While Penhale loved being Victor’s handler, he said he isn’t interested in being a K-9 handler again.

“I wouldn’t want to get attached. I miss (Victor) very much. I’ve got him on both my computer screensavers,” Penhale said. “If I moved a foot, Victor would move with me.”