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South Bend Police K9 and officer retire as partners

Cooper, a South Bend Police K9 officer at the training grounds.

For 21 years, Sgt. Dan Demler has been opening the door of his police car for k9 officers. This week, that will change for the long-time South Bend police officer.

“It’s time,” said Sgt. Demler, as he paused. “It’s time.”

When Sgt. Demler joined the South Bend Police Department, his superior asked him a simple question – what his goal was.

Demler told him, he wanted to be a dog handler.

He worked with Norm for eight years and Xacco for seven years. Cooper came along in 2011.

“All of them I’ve had a good bond,” said Demler, with Cooper sitting on his lap. “But this one, I’ve told my wife numerous times, I don’t know I’ve had one that’s loved as much as he does.”

Cooper is retiring as a k9 officer this week. Sgt. Demler will also be retiring as a k9 handler.

“It’s emotional now that’s it’s here,” Sgt. Demler said. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve. At work, it’s a different story – I’m all business.”

Demler paid the city $1 to keep Cooper and agreed to assume all liability and vet bills.

Even though the two won’t be responding to calls together, Cooper will still live with Sgt. Demler and his family. He said Cooper will now assume the duties of watching over his daughters.

“Part of the reason I get so emotional thinking about it is my experience with my previous two dogs,” he said.

Sgt. Demler had to put down both Norm and Xacco almost one year after each of them retired.

“These dogs live to work,” he said. “They love family life, but they live to work.”

Police dogs like Cooper are often trained elsewhere and departments like South Bend then purchase the dogs. Cooper was born in Texas and arrived in South Bend at the age of three.

The officers constantly work with the dogs training them on various scents.

“When a bad guy runs from the cops, he is scared and he’s putting off a scent that we cannot imitate,” said Demler. “Once they do that a few times, that’s what they know they’re looking for. That helps make a good dog.”

Demler said Cooper was deployed a total of 163 times over six years. But his arthritis and other health issues have started to intervene in Cooper’s health.

Demler said it will be strange riding in his car without Cooper, but that he’s already gone in a few days without him – to mentally prepare both he and the dog.

“People can say dogs don’t love, but I call BS on that,” said Demler.

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