K9 Schody, a German shepherd who has worked diligently in the Department of Natural Resources’ K9 Unit for the past decade will officially retire on Dec. 31.
Schody, who came to the DNR with an abundance of energy but no training, has been a stalwart of the K9 Unit.
Over the years, Schody delighted countless people with his friendly demeanor and foiled the plans of others who’ve tried to break game and fish laws. He came to the rescue of people who were lost in the woods, helped the DNR’s public safety partners locate critical evidence, and was the constant companion of conservation officer Scott Staples.
“Schody is very fortunate to go to 10 years – he really is – but he’s starting to suffer from a disease right now and it’s time for him to retire and just be a house dog, although he hates it probably just as much as I do,” said Staples, who is stationed in Carlton in east-central Minnesota. “I spend more time with that dog than I do with my own family. He comes to work with me every day – my family doesn’t – and when I’m at home with my family, he’s at home with us as well. When you do that for the whole life of the dog, the bond is pretty strong.”
Staples and Schody are one of the DNR’s six K9 teams in the state. Like all but one of the K9 Unit’s other dogs, Schody came from eastern Europe, which has a strong reputation for breeding working dogs. All of the DNR dogs and their handlers receive extensive, ongoing training. The dogs can track people, sniff out fish and game and locate firearms or spent ammunition. Three of the dogs also are trained to smell zebra mussels. The Safari Club International has been a key supporter of the K9 Unit over the years, helping to cover some of the upfront costs of onboarding and training.
During a December exercise at Camp Ripley, in below freezing temperatures and a howling wind, all of the dogs found what they were looking for – a combination of fish, venison or zebra mussels, depending on the dog – hidden among boats, trucks, trailers and an assortment of other objects.
“It really is amazing to watch them work, and there’s no doubt Minnesota’s people and their natural resources are better for having these dogs,” said Lt. Phil Mohs, a former dog handler in the Army who coordinates the K9 Unit and is partnered with one of its new dogs.
Staples is partnered with the other. He knows firsthand the work it takes to bring an untrained dog up to speed. Staples and Mohs will begin 16 weeks of initial training in February and then, like all the unit’s dogs and handlers, train continually after that.
Schody, meanwhile, will continue living with Staples and his family. Instead of hopping into Staples’ truck every day, though, he’ll have to get used to watching Staples and his new partner – a German shepherd named Fennec – head off to work. The new arrangement won’t be easy for Schody or Staples.
“It’s going to be sad,” Staples said. “For the last 10 years, he’s gotten into that pickup truck with me. He’s going to hate to stay at home. So I think I’m probably going to have to wean him off of that a little bit – take him with to work every once in a while just to keep him thinking he’s still the big dog around the house.”