WHEATLAND – The Wheatland K9 force was officially resurrected Aug. 23 with the addition of Wheatland’s newest police officer, K9 Ace.
K9 Ace is just over 2 years old and is a purebred Belgian Malinois. His handler that has trained with him and who has taken him on as his new partner is Wheatland Police Department patrol officer and K9 handler Dalton Minsaas, who has been with the Wheatland force for three years. Minsaas, a Casper native has resurrected a program that has been dormant for several years.
“I just started the K9 program here in Wheatland,” Minsaas said. “Well, we had one, but I brought it back when we got K9 Ace.”
According to Minsaas, the former program saw the dogs grow old and were retired, and there was no interest in any officer becoming a handler, so the program was nonexistant.
K9 handlers have duties and invest extra time and effort into their daily routines. The dog actually becomes a part of their family, their partner and their friend, but Minsaas says that there is no mistake in that they will never be a family pet, but always partners that work a job together.
And K9 Ace is all about going to work.
You have to be a special kind of officer to take on the challenge and responsibility for a four-footed partner. You are not only responsible for the safety and care of the dog, but also for the public that interacts with the dog.
“I love working with dogs,” Minsaas said. “I hunt and fish outside of work and I use dogs for waterfowl hunting so I figured that having one for work is just as good.”
Personally, Minsaas has one black lab and his girlfriend has a healer. Adding one more to the mix became part of the family plan. Although Minsaas is responsible for the dog 24/7 and is K9 Ace’s only handler, there is a line drawn as to relationship description and life objectives.
“He’s not my pet, he’s my co-worker,” Minsaas said. “A co-worker that stays with me.”
K9 Ace was raised up to be a police dog and trained specifically to hunt.
“I talked with several K9 handlers,” Minsaas said. “It was when I went and trained with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Casper P.D.. They put me on to MAKOR K-9.”
MAKOR K-9 Training Center is one of the most advanced K-9 training centers in the U.S. and has been around since 1985. According to their website, “At MAKOR K-9 Training Center new dimensions of instructional techniques for all disciplines of K-9 training are constantly being explored, monitored, evaluated, refined and tested. MAKOR‘s training staff is considered to be, and includes, some of the most talented and expert K-9 trainers anywhere in the world. MAKOR also employs various adjunct instructors that are the leading experts in their own individual fields of K-9 knowledge and expertise.”
After doing his research, Minsaas decided to get his dog from MAKOR and K9 Ace became a part of the Wheatland family. MAKOR has a training facility in Las Vegas, Nev., and that is where Ace had done his basic training, stationed in Las Vegas and he became “K9 Ace.” He has come to a smaller town, but seems to be adapting well after just one week both to his surroundings and to his new partner.
“They hand selected him, trained him up, brought him when he was ready and then came up and did training,” Minsaas said. “Unfortunately, they had another dog picked out and she was a little bit younger and not as mature and when she got up here, through the stress of traveling from Las Vegas, Nev., to Wheatland, Wyo., it was a lot of stress on the dog.”
From the stress, Minsaas said that she had lost her drive to hunt. The replacement was K9 Ace and according to Minsaas, he’s a much better fit.
“They do have rescues, and they also purchase dogs for the specific requests,” Minsaas said. “I specifically asked for a Belgian Malinois and I initially requested a female, so we purchased a dog specifically for the Wheatland Police Department to train.”
The Belgian Malinois is a popular choice for those who want a smart and obedient dog that is agile and hard-working.
According to the American Kennel Club, “Belgian Malinois are squarely built, proud, and alert herders standing 22 to 26 inches. Strong and well-muscled, but more elegant than bulky, there’s an honest, no-frills look about them, as befit dogs built to work hard for their feed. If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is.”
“Mals” as they are affectionately called weigh between 60-80 pounds and have a life expectancy of between 14-16 years.
K9 Ace was purchased for $15,000 which included the dog and training. He is trained as a sniffing dog, able to scent cocaine, heroin, meth, marijuana and opium. As training continues and is ongoing with Minsaas, he is hoping to have Ace trained for escaped criminal searches as well as searching for missing persons.
On the day that Minsaas first met his new partner, there was great anticipation, but a little bit of bit of anxiety as the first dog that they were counting on didn’t work out.
“I was excited,” Minsaas said. “The handlers had told me that he was high drive, likes to hunt and find drugs, and likes to play. He wasn’t stressed and it was a lot nicer than having a dog that didn’t have that high drive and ready to go.”
Minsaas had trained with the first dog for three days, but it was evident that the fit was not right. Ace has taken to Minsaas as if they were long lost buds and is ever at his side. In the interview, just a handshake led Ace to rear up and go into protective mode with his new partner.
“That’s why I am keeping him in a soft muzzle for about a month,” Minsaas said. “I am like his dad and he’s very protective of me.”
The plan going forward is to have Ace do drug searches at traffic stops when drugs are suspected, high school drug searches and generally wherever they are requested to go. Although they are based and part of the Wheatland Police Department, they will respond to all needs in Platte County if summoned.
K9 Ace is still getting to know his surroundings and is getting used to new faces. He was welcomed to the police force with open arms and for the next 14-16 years, K9 Ace will be joined to his partner, patrol officer/K9 handler Minsaas.
The Wheatland Police Department is located at 951 Water Street in Wheatland and for questions or comments about the department or about K9 Ace, you can call the police station at (307) 322-2141.