After eight years, 1,076 calls, many arrests and detections including a year in which he found over a quarter ton of drugs, Blaine’s police dog Yoschi, 10, is retiring.
“He’s a good dog,” said his handler, Blaine K-9 officer Mike Munden, “and is recognized as such by other departments in the area that we’ve worked with.” Indeed, Yoschi has a reputation for not giving up and for making some surprising arrests.
He is the first police dog in the county whose work resulted in a search warrant being granted based on K-9 tracking of a suspect. The suspect, a man who fired several rounds from a rifle into an occupied car, nearly killing a six-year-old child, was arrested and convicted.
Two years ago last December the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) pursued a suspect into a Birch Bay woodlot and Munden ran the track, or trailed the suspect, along with K-9 deputy Lonnie Beauman. “This track mainly sticks out because I was ready to call it quits when we suddenly hooked into the track and found the suspect,” Munden said, adding that Yoschi literally pulled him around and back on the trail as they approached their patrol car to head for home. “He was always saving my tail that way,” Munden said.
Yoschi has earned a reputation, Munden said, among area police forces as a determined and diligent police dog. He’s a full-blooded black German Shepherd purchased with part of the $60,000 supporters raised in the K-9 program’s first year of operation. Donations came from various community sources, individuals and grants, and was enough to guarantee the first three years of operation. It still is funded entirely by donations from the community.
Munden first served with a K-9 unit in his native New Mexico, but says that he really got into the specialized kind of service here in Blaine, something he started after the department encouraged him but offered no financial support.
“Munden single-handedly pulled the program together,” Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said, “writing 600 letters soliciting contributions. Within several months, Munden collected enough for a K-9 program. And so, on September 10, 2001, one day before the 9/11 attacks, Munden and Yoschi began training that was hosted by the Delta police department in Delta, B.C., which is known as a leading training center in North America.”
Munden and Yoschi completed 520 hours of training, 120 more than required for a police officer in 2002. In addition to patrol training, Munden sought and completed drug training for Yoschi, who can now detect cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine.
“His first real track on patrol came a few months later when a group of juveniles committed a dine and dash from Denny’s,” Munden said. “I used a short lead and followed Yoschi through the pouring rain. He went straight to the front door of a house and a knock on the door led to the arrest of a group of juveniles who were hiding there. I remember it as the first time that I realized, ‘Hey, this dog stuff works!’ ”
Munden said that Yoschi found one suspect a mile and a half from the vehicle he’d used to try to jump the border in front of Smuggler’s Inn, buried under a mound of blackberries.
Yoschi’s retirement and recognition of his replacement, already in training, will be formally recognized at a Blaine police department open house to be held next month.