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Retired K9 and his replacement learn to co-exist

Waukegan Police Officer Dave Mahoney relaxes with new partner Grizzly (left) his now-retired partner Matt. | Dan Moran ~ Sun-Times

Waukegan Police Officer Dave Mahoney relaxes with new partner Grizzly (left) and his now-retired partner Matt. | Dan Moran ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 19, 2013 1:41PM

It’s a living arrangement that makes “The Odd Couple” look like a perfect match: A recent police force retiree sharing a house with the young rookie who took over his job.

In this case, the seemingly awkward scenario involves two German shepherds: 11-year-old Matt, who was retired by the Waukegan Police Department earlier this month, and Grizzly, a nearly 2-year-old K-9 officer whose first day was June 12.

Officer Dave Mahoney worked with Matt throughout the dog’s decade-long career and recently received permission from the city to keep him as a family pet.

Because Mahoney will now handle and live with Grizzly, the roommate pact was set in motion.

“At first it was a little difficult, but they get along now,” Mahoney said on Tuesday, June 18, about two weeks after the dogs moved in together. “They’re tolerating each other. They pass each other and they look at each other, and then they keep on going.”

He added: “There was a lot of training we had to do. I had to sit them down with each other, just little baby-steps towards introducing them. When you have two alpha males, they’re going to fight, but I can’t have that in the household.”

Considering that, in human years, Matt is around 70 while Grizzly is in his teens, it’s no surprise to hear that “Matt doesn’t take any (guff) from him,” Mahoney said.

Grizzly is the first of a planned expansion of Waukegan’s K-9 roster, with Police Chief Robert Kerkorian saying that the department hopes to purchase two more full-service dogs — another German shepherd and a Belgian Malinois — with donated funds this fall.

Also in the works is the purchase later this summer of a beagle that Kerkorian said would be assigned to the gang-intelligence unit and used strictly for drug searches.

It was work of this nature — or drug “finds,” as K-9 handlers refer to them — that led directly to the acquisition of Grizzly, a purchase made with $12,600 drawn from the department’s narcotics-asset forefeiture fund.

“It cost the city nothing,” said 9th Ward Ald. William Valko after the City Council approved the purchase from TOPS Kennels in Grayslake on June 3. Waukegan police also used $75,000 in seized drug assets to buy 25 stun guns and related equipment.

“We’re taking away from the bad guys to bring up the esteem of the city, especially with the dog,” said Valko, noting that Waukegan’s forfeiture fund stood at nearly $100,000 at the time of the expenditures.

According to Mahoney, the money spent on Grizzly includes training provided since the dog’s formative months.

“He was being trained in obedience and tracking and some article searches, and I came in just before they were doing the bite work, or the apprehension work,” Mahoney said.

“What we do with that is introduce them to agitators, and they pretty much become a totally different dog after that, because then they start knowing how tough they can be.”

Asked about the adjustment to a new partner, Mahoney said “we’re still bonding. We’re still learning each other.

It takes a while for him to warm up to you because, if you think about it, during the training, he’s seeing several other people. They’re training him, so he’s getting confused as soon as I come in by introducing him to a whole new life — such as living in a house instead of staying in a kennel all day long.”

Grizzly reportedly has produced early divideds, including the location of a gun possibly used in a shooting last week on the 500 block of Fulton Avenue. But both Mahoney and Kerkorian say the newbie will have to live up to his predecessor.

“Matt has served with distinction over the last 11 years,” said Kerkorian, adding that the K-9 performed “many, many wonderful police finds, from guns and narcotics to offenders. He’s been a good officer for us.”

In December 2011, for example, Matt helped officers track down suspects hiding in Lakeside Tower on Genesee Street following the carjacking and murder of a Chestnut Street resident.

As Mahoney put it, “he’s had an exciting career — caught a bank robber, found many a gun used in a lot of shootings. You name it, he’s done it. Now Grizzly? He’s got some shoes to fill.”

While Grizzly works the streets, Matt will enjoy the life of a retired gentleman. Or maybe semi-retired.

“He’s got the most important job now — protecting my family and my kids,” Mahoney said. “I like for him to be at home. It’s a nonstressful environment for him. He can pretty much lay outside, enjoy the sun and play with the kids.”

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