Photo by Jen Burris
Deputy Adam Carlson and Sheriff Dave Brand pose with K9 officer, Cleo, and the trophies she has won in just one year of service with the Winona County Sheriff’s Department.
Cleo has been an intricate part of the Winona County Sheriff’s Department since September of 2012. Trained in agility, obedience, article search, suspect search, apprehension, and apprehension with a gun, she is Adam Carlson’s partner; she’s also a Belgian Malinois.
Cleo started out as a patrol dog, and is now certified in narcotics as well. She lives at home with Deputy Adam Carlson, as they are on call all day, every day.
Cleo is mainly used for tracking missing persons or fleeing suspects, drug searches and detections, but she’s also a regular partner, there to make sure even routine traffic stops go smoothly.
“If one little thing is off, she notices,” Carlson said.
During a recent traffic stop, a man got out of his car to get his driver’s license from the backseat of his vehicle; when Cleo noticed the man leaving his vehicle, she immediately made her presence known from her spot inside the squad car.
One of the most memorable experiences Carlson has had with Cleo so far involved tracking a suspect in collaboration with Rushford Police. A suspect had fled custody, and was also in danger of being out in the elements too long. After two miles of tracking, Cleo located the man, who then willingly was taken into custody.
K9 officers are able to enter dangerous situations, creating added protection for other members of the department on duty. These K9 members are often a buffer in tense and critical situations. Carlson noted that Cleo often deters people from using violence in altercations.
Cleo isn’t just used on criminals, she is often dispatched to look for missing people, children that have wandered off, or lost hunters, Carlson explained.
Cleo took over for Blitz, the former K9 officer, who worked with Deputy Chris Cichosz until Blitz’s retirement in 2012. To purchase and train Cleo, the Sheriff’s department raised $20,000 in donations.
In July, Carlson and Cleo participated in a regional competition in St. Peter, Minn. The duo took home the Rookie of the Year award, which requires both the handler and the dog to be beginners in the competition. At regionals, they qualified to compete in Nationals in September near Washington D.C. They placed seventh out of 79 competitors.
The competitions have only reinforced Cleo’s training, which continues on a daily basis, Carlson said.
“Whether it’s 30 seconds of training, or an entire day, there’s something each day,” Carlson added.
Sheriff Dave Brand spoke highly of the two handlers, and the dogs that have been a part of the department over the years.
“I fully support the canine units that we’ve had — three very good dogs on our team — and two very good handlers that have gone above and beyond to work with these jobs, and take them home,” Brand said. “They’re on call 24/7 for other deputies.”
Brand noted that the K9 members of the Winona County Sheriff’s Department have been and will continue to be an important part of the force.
“Dogs are very intelligent and smart,” Brand added.