For the relatively young Waunakee Police Officer Brent Schmidt, Izzy is more than just a partner.
The 2-year-old English black Labrador retriever is a joy and a goal achieved.
“When I was in college, we had a lot of professors that were previous law enforcement,” Officer and K9 handler Schmidt said.
The professors and the fellow officers Schmidt interned with at the Columbus Police Department emphasized having a career goal.
“One of my long-term goals was to be a K9 handler,” Schmidt said.
Growing up with dogs in his household, and with another dog of his own now, Schmidt has always loved animals, he said.
The K9 handler position seemed like “an awesome gig,” he said.
He had 15 years of non-professional dog training experience that laid a foundation for a more professional experience.
“I love sitting there and working with my dogs at home, teaching them odd tricks and things to do,” he added.
Schmidt joined the Waunakee Police Department in July of 2019, and about a year later, the K9 handler position came up.
“I said I’m going to throw my name in the mix. I’m a young officer, but hopefully they see my potential,” Schmidt added.
This is the third K9 for the Waunakee department. Thoro, the previous K9, suffered from medical issues and his life was cut short.
Like Thoro, Izzy is trained to detect narcotics and to track. Schmidt also trained for four weeks in Michigan to become her handler.
“The biggest thing is just learning the bond and characteristics of the dog. Dogs are dogs, but every dog is different, and they all have their own personalities, and they all function differently, and they all have different mannerisms,” Schmidt said.
As Izzy and Officer Schmidt began to get to know one another, each learned how the other reacts. The big-picture training was in narcotics, tracking and article-search training, Schmidt said.
Obedience training — teaching the dog commands to sit, stay, come and lie down — were also part of the mix.
During the training, Schmidt had the squad vehicle designed for the K9 handler, allowing Izzy to acclimate to it, so the transition from training to patrol was smooth, he said.
To ensure the Waunakee Police Department can help other law enforcement agencies, Schmidt works the night shift, starting at 5 p.m., so a K9 is available when needed.
“In our village, we were really looking at how can we assist our village the best, but also how can we lend a helping hand to the area? We’re not just part of Waunakee, we’re part of the county, too. So if there’s a lack of K9s at night in the area, it might be beneficial not only to us as a village, but to the county as a whole to have the K9 in our area,” Schmidt explained.
The Waunakee community’s generosity made the K9 possible. A fundraising effort allowed the department to purchase Thoro, and leftover funds from that campaign made the purchase of Izzy possible.
Schmidt would like to do more with Izzy and introduce her to the community, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented that.
“She is a super social dog, super friendly. She loves meeting people,” Schmidt said.
He hopes in the summer, if he happens upon kids riding bikes, he can step out of the squad with Izzy and say hello, he said.
“It just creates positive interaction between law enforcement and our community members. And I think that’s what we need right now,” he added.
He’d also like to bring Izzy to the schools to talk to students about their jobs.
“The K9 program is a really good asset to introduce young individuals to policing with a positive interaction,” Schmidt said.