Clintonville’s K-9 team
Wendorf, Chero running strong
By Bert Lehman
After a little over a year of service, Chero, the Clintonville Police Department’s K-9 police dog, is proving to be a valuable addition to the department.
The K-9 program at the Clintonville Police Department originally began around 2010 when Officer Adam Miller and police dog Apollo were part of the police force. Miller eventually took a job with the Menasha Police Department and bought Apollo from the Clintonville Police Department.
“We intended to fill the position as soon as we found another officer interested,” said Clintonville Chief of Police Terry Lorge.
Enter Chris Wendorf, who joined the Clintonville Police Department in January 2014.
“When I came here I knew the position (K-9 handler) was open but I didn’t take it right away,” Wendorf said. “I needed to get settled in and make sure I was a good fit with Clintonville. After a period of time I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Wendorf said he originally became interested in becoming a K-9 handler while he worked for a different law enforcement agency.
The Clintonville Police Department “hired” Chero to be its police dog in November 2014.
Chero is originally from the Czech Republic and came to the department after being purchased through the Fox-Tal Training Academy in Black Creek. During the initial five-week training in narcotics, Chero learned five different drug orders to search for.
“After that we took a couple months break and in the spring of 2015 we went back for five more weeks of patrol training, which is tracking, handler protection, and the dog’s obedience,” Wendorf said. “He had obedience coming in, but we worked a little tighter on that.”
Lorge said Chero is a dual purpose dog.
“He’s trained to do everything except bomb detection,” Lorge said. “You can’t have a drug dog and a bomb dog be the same because it is two separate areas of learning.”
The closest bomb dogs are with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Lorge said.
Lorge said Chero’s main duty is drug enforcement.
“Chero was one of the top in training in his class,” Lorge said. “He’s an extremely intelligent dog. He also does patrol and protection, and tracking.”
With the training, it cost around $16,000 for the department to purchase Chero. The department expects to get 6-8 years of service from Chero.
Lorge said the money to purchase Chero came from donations and fundraisers. Money from when the department sold Apollo was also used.
“Anything we raise or any donations we get goes into that fund intended for the dog,” Lorge said.
The department is currently holding a fundraiser to raise money for that fund to cover other expenses associated with the K-9 program. It is selling German Sheppard plush toy replicas of Chero.
“It has the police department shield on the vest,” Lorge said. “The vest is removable. The collar is removable. The collar has the tag on it with the badge. If you look real close the dog’s badge number is on there.”
The department is selling each plush toy for $15. All the profits go to the K-9 fund.
Both Lorge and Wendorf said Chero has performed well since joining the department.
“Anything we’ve thrown at him, he’s tackled and accomplished,” Wendorf said. “He’s actually progressed in the narcotics faster than any other dog who has gone through that training academy that we went through.”
Lorge said he feels having Chero as part of the department has helped the department battle the influx of heroin into area.
“I think having our dog is a great deterrent,” Lorge said. “The dog doesn’t have the same restrictions the officers have. We’ve got heroin in town. We’ve dealt with it already. I don’t think it’s as extensive as some communities. We’ve been fortunate. I’d like to think that our dog has a lot to do with that. I think the bad guys are going to think twice about coming into the community.”
Whenever Wendorf is on patrol, Chero is with him.
“He’s never really away from me,” Wendorf said.
Lorge said, Chero is part of the police department’s family and “runs the station” when he’s there.”
“Chero is a very friendly dog. He’s a great dog. He’s good with kids in the schools,” Lorge said.
When visitors who have children visit the police department, the children receive the opportunity to meet Chero.
“We want the kids to have that relationship with the police and be comfortable with the dog. It’s been working out really well,” Lorge said. Wendorf said Chero has also become part of his family, which includes his wife and their 11-month-old daughter.
“He’s definitely part of the family and he’s integrated so well into it,” Wendorf said. “He knows his job. He does his job. Even at home, he’s relaxed and ready to go.”