Oak Creek - Police are getting ready to say goodbye to one of their own, a furry four-legged officer named Kuno.
Kuno is a 10-year-old K9 officer who has served for more than seven years. Many have grown attached to him, especially his partner and handler, Paul Hernon.
Kuno and Hernon have been working the night shift together since Hernon drove Kuno from Oak Creek's K9 vendor in South Carolina. The two have developed an unspoken bond stronger than most police officers or pet owners can imagine.
"It goes beyond a family pet and, believe me, I have a 13-year-old Siberian husky," Hernon said.
"It goes deeper than that because I rely on him. There have been so many instances where he's been there for me."
The bond between Kuno and Hernon will last a lifetime. When Kuno retires, Hernon will keep him in his home as a pet.
"When it becomes time, I'm going to request a K9 squad and I'm going to give him one last ride to the vet," Hernon said. "It's going to be an emotional one. He's been a great partner, and when he retires he'll still be a great partner for me."
The role Kuno has played in the department goes beyond searching, tracking and crowd control. He provides moral support for the other officers and as a deterrent to criminals. His presence on the street usually brings suspects out of hiding, and his presence in the department allows officers to pet and hang out with him.
When he's not working a patrol or resting and playing at home, Kuno is doing demonstrations. Hernon and Kuno regularly go to schools, church groups, homeless shelters and other areas to demonstrate the work of a K9 unit.
Hernon said he does the demonstrations to clear up the social stigma behind police dogs, adding: "These guys aren't man-eaters. They're dogs that are highly trained to locate drugs or locate people. They are not out-of-control animals that are chewing at the bit to kill or bite people."
Kuno has led an illustrious career, winning the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Canine Handlers Association award for quickest apprehension, finding more than 30 pounds of marijuana in a vehicle and obtaining six search warrants based on his alerts.
It's been Hernon's goal to work with a K9 unit since he started with the Oak Creek Police Department in 1999. He has had a close relationship working as an agitator with the K9 department before working with Kuno. An agitator is a dog trainer who takes bites, helps with drug searches or people finding, and trains canines to stay alert and on-duty.
The Police Department will recruit a new K9 unit after Kuno retires, but that isn't going to end Hernon's relationship with the K9 unit. Although he won't be working directly with a dog, he will continue to train and agitate the current K9s.
Hernon said: "I decided not to put in for the next dog because I know there are a lot of officers who have the passion to work with a dog and I don't want to take that from them. I would hate to take that experience away from a fellow officer."
The Oak Creek Police Department has another K9 officer, Bronco, who will remain in service while a new K9 unit is trained.
Kuno is a dual-purpose Belgian malinois, which is the Dutch version of a German shepherd. The malinois have a similar build and disposition, but are less prone to aging effects like bad legs and cancer.
Like any other officer on the force, Kuno will have a retirement party with all the bells and whistles in May. He will hang up his badge, pick up his rawhide bone and always stay by Hernon's side.
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