WLPD Welcomes New K9 Cop

Winona Lake Police Officer Joe Bumbaugh and his new K9 partner, Bron. (Photo by Stacey Page)

On May 12, Winona Lake Police Officer Joe Bumbaugh watched his partner pass away and felt his world cave in. Hugo, his beloved, faithful partner in crime, died of complications from cancer.

Less than 48 hours after losing Hugo, Bumbaugh told StaceyPageOnline.com, “I’m going to miss him. I don’t think people understand the bond between handler and K9. He was with me 24/7 for six years. He was like a son to me. (Losing him) has been really difficult.”

But today, Officer Bumbaugh was all smiles when he introduced his new K9 partner, Bron.

Although he says the memory of Hugo is still fresh and he’ll never forget the dog, Bumbaugh is ready to set out on this new journey with his 3-year-old German Shepherd and Malaherd mix partner.

“This is the most rewarding job you can ever have,” he says of being a police canine handler. “I’m more than excited! There’s nothing like being called to a scene and having (other officers) say ‘He went that way,’ and then your partner basically says, ‘There he is!'”

After receiving the Winona Lake Town Council’s approval last week to replace Hugo, Bumbaugh wasted no time contacting Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind. Vohne Liche is responsible for training hundreds of canines used in law enforcement and the military.

On Friday, Bumbaugh made the trip to Denver to meet Bron, whose name means glorious warrior and protector. “When I called, they said, ‘Boy, do we have the dog for you!'” he recalled. “So I went down Friday and spent about three hours working with him, seeing what he is capable of.”

Today, Bumbaugh picked up his new partner just before noon and, at 6 p.m., the two reported for duty. “We’re in a bonding period now so he isn’t working,” Bumbaugh explained of Bron. “He’s just riding along and we’re getting to know each other.”

But as Bron sat for the interview, he seemed already pretty comfortable with Bumbaugh, often leaning against the officer’s legs and enjoying the attention of being petted. He was also more than happy to receive his reward of a tennis ball for listening to the officer’s commands. Bumbaugh is optimistically cautious though, noting, “He needs a bath, that’ll be the real test. We’ll see if I lose any digits.”

One of the biggest challenges Bumbaugh faces with Bron is language. With Hugo, the commands were all in Dutch. With Bron, the officer is learning those same commands in Czech. Bron, a product of Czechoslovakian descent, has about a dozen commands he responds to. “Either I’m learning Czech or he’s learning Dutch,” Bumbaugh laughs. Fortunately, the officer has a friend who is fluent in Czech and has offered to help with pronunciations.

Bron is certified in narcotics detecting (marijuana, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin), and he is also a patrol dog efficient in tracking in both open spaces and buildings. Bumbaugh says he will be an asset to the community and the county.

Before coming to WLPD, Bron – formerly known as Bleckie, a name Bumbaugh changed – was used for a short time by the Terre Haute Police Department. Bumbaugh says the handler, however, was injured and decided he didn’t want to continue with a canine, so the dog was returned to Vohn Liche.

The $10,000 dog was funded by the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office and, according to Bumbaugh, should be able to work in law enforcement for about 6 to 8 years.

Bumbaugh is happy to be back on patrol with a K9 to accompany him and credits those who made it happen: “With the chief’s support and the town board’s support, this was possible.”

He is also thankful for the support of the community, especially Paws & Claws. The Warsaw pet store provided the dog food for Hugo and they have agreed to do the same for Bron.

Bumbaugh and Bron will spend much of the next two weeks at Vohne Liche Kennels undergoing training as a team. At the end of that training period, Bron will officially be on duty whenever his partner is behind the wheel of the squad car.

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