Cop dogs perform in winning tradition

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, July 25, 2009

With Tazer on the sidelines, his kids Ghost and Bosco stole the show.

The show was the 2009 state police dog competition, and Ghost and Bosco proudly represented the Austin Police Department by taking second and fourth, respectively.

Tazer, the five-time national champion dog from the Mower County Sheriff’s Department, had ACL surgery about two months ago and is recovering.

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Lt. Matt Holten, who works with Ghost, and officer Eric Blust, who works with Bosco, also took home the top team honors at the competition, which was held in Hutchinson, Minn., July 19-21.

“We have a pretty good history,” Holten said. “We take a lot of pride in it.”

Holten said he has been working with various police dogs for 16 years. He added that it’s gratifying to see the dogs’ “energy and loyalty.”

The many years have brought many accolades to the lieutenant.

“(Lt. Holten) must have an awesome trophy room in his house,” police chief Paul Philipp said.

Holten said he has lost track of all his trophies, but said he looks forward to the challenge of competition.

Blust has been working with Bosco for about three years. Before that, he said he worked with Gunner for another three.

Though less experienced then Holten, Blust has tasted plenty of success — Blust, Holten, Tazer’s handler, Sgt. Jeff Ellis, and one other regional officer won the team competition at the U.S. Police Canine Association’s national field trials in 2008.

Said Holten: “Nationals is kind of cool. It’s for bragging rights.”

The two police officers and their dogs won’t be going to 2009 nationals for budgetary reasons, but both Holten and Blust think they’d be challenging for titles.

“Our region is probably the best region in the country,” Holten said.

Blust added, “I think we’d be up there.”

For now, they will have to settle for friendly competition against each other.

“We push each other to get better,” Holten said.

So what makes a good police dog?

Both officers listed some similar traits — the dog needs to be energetic, intense and willing to work.

Blust said his dog’s breed — Belgian Malinois — is a plus because the dogs have good energy and stamina.

Of course, being descendants of the highly-decorated Tazer doesn’t hurt.

“It’s been a very good bloodline,” Holten said.

Sheriff Terese Amazi said she’s not sure if or when Tazer will return to duty or competitions, but did say she’s hopeful the dog will be able to work again.

Tazer has now had two leg surgeries since 2007.

For now, Austin will have to root for Ghost and Bosco. Both handlers are hopeful to go back to nationals in the next few years, perhaps in 2011 when the competition comes to Detroit Lakes, Minn.

And there’s a good chance the Austin canines will shine.

“We work really hard at it,” Holten said.