DWIGHT — Dwight police officer Watson McKee has spent a month trying to put into words what his partner, Katscho, a 10-year-old German shepherd recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, has meant to him.
“Due to the amount of activity we are involved in, including being called out by other agencies and put into difficult situations, it’s hard to describe,” McKee said. “We work side by side every day. We have been through extended schooling and training, and he has advanced me significantly. I would have been years behind the curve if it wasn’t for him.”
Katscho, who is certified for police work through the Illinois Training and Standards Board, began his service with the Dwight Police Department in 2010 when he was 1½ years old. Katscho has lived with McKee for the past seven years.
On Dec. 12, veterinarians told McKee that Katscho had about two weeks to live.
McKee continued to work, initially leaving his partner at home.
“But he gets anxiety real bad when he doesn’t come to work with me,” McKee said. “So, I started to bring him along, again. I am not deploying him for any work, but I think we are still lucky to have him. Every minute with him is valuable.”
The typical K-9 is in service for seven years, McKee said.
“He has been responsible for several drug arrests over the years,” McKee said. “That’s not only in Dwight, but that is all over the area, such as in Fairbury and wherever we are needed. He has been a great partner.”
The program will continue, though, McKee said.
“I kind of knew that something might happen and last year, we started the process of thinking about Katscho’s retirement and getting a new K-9,” he said. “Fortunately, we have that approved.”
The Dwight Veterinary Clinic and veterinarian Lou Cronin provided free care to the program, but additional funds will be needed. The Dwight Economic Alliance has chosen the department’s K-9 program to be its Fund-A-Need project at its annual auction on Feb. 24.