UPDATED:St. Croix County loses K9 officer AceIt was a tough week for St. Croix County Sheriff Deputy Josh Stenseth. He still can’t believe the pup he trained and was his partner for four years is gone. Ace, one of three St. Croix County K9 officers died Monday, Feb. 21. The vital, young and valuable dog was bitten three times by a cat on Feb. 14.
It was a tough week for St. Croix County Sheriff Deputy Josh Stenseth. He still can’t believe the pup he trained and was his partner for four years is gone.
Ace, one of three St. Croix County K9 officers died Monday, Feb. 21.
The vital, young and valuable dog was bitten three times by a cat on Feb. 14.
In what can only be thought of as a bizarre turn of events, the dog and handler were practicing obedience and article search training on grounds of a Somerset school, during Stenseth’s normal shift. It was late, around 11:30 p.m.
“It was just quick training like we do all the time,” said Stenseth. “We do tons of this kind of training to keep the dogs sharp.”
As a reward Stenseth tossed a Kong ball for Ace to retrieve and play with. It landed near a jungle gym, where there was also a big, burly, black stray cat.
Ace tangled with the cat, returned to Stenseth when he was called and the cat ran off, unharmed.
The next day Ace was not quite himself and by Feb. 16 he was more lethargic and could hardly walk. That afternoon, Stenseth took him to Animal Care Center in Hudson.
Ace was put on antibiotics to treat the infection from what ended up being three severe bites, one on his face, another on his front right leg and in the “armpit” of the same leg.
“Thursday he felt better. We did a track and apprehended a suspect,” said Stenseth.
That would be the last work Ace would do. Friday, he took a turn, his right leg started to swell. Saturday his condition worsened and Sunday he stopped eating.
“I took him to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Oakdale,” said Stenseth. “They admitted him and said he was in shock.”
Ace was given two bags of plasma and started on IV antibiotics but his body rejected all the efforts. Later that night he was put on oxygen.
“Monday morning I asked flat out if there was anything else they could do for the dog,” said Stenseth. “They said no.” At 6:45 a.m. they euthanized Ace, one week after his encounter with a stray cat.
“It was the hardest thing I have had to do,” said Stenseth. “I have never had anyone close to me pass. This was by far the toughest and most emotional thing I had to do.”
Ace would have started his fifth year with the department and Stenseth in May.
“He had a great career,” said Stenseth. “He tracked a lot of people and apprehended close to 90 suspects, found narcotics in vehicles and schools as well as earned first place in regional competition. He was social and a great street and trail dog.”
During his career Ace found three children that had wandered away from home.
“Those are probably the best, being able to bring the kids back to their parents,” said Stenseth, who is married with two children of his own, ages 2 1/2 years and 4.
“It was hard to explain this to them,” said Stenseth. “I told them he was in doggie heaven.”
The K9 officers live with their handlers but are kept in a locked exterior kennel and dog house. The Stenseth family has three other dogs, two Labradors and a Bichon Frise.
“I have always loved animals in general,” said Stenseth. “And I loved working with the public.” After graduation from Rice Lake High School, Stenseth completed the police science program through Chippewa Valley Technical College.
In 2002 he was hired by St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department.
“In my initial interview I indicated I wanted to become a handler,” said Stenseth. “All my life I have had dogs and I used to do ride-alongs with Rice Lake’s canine handler Mike Nelson.”
In February 2007, Stenseth’s dream of becoming a canine handler became a reality with the arrival of Ace from the Czech Republic. Training began in March and after three months the team was on the job. In the years since, they continued training, gaining national certification in many areas of work.
“You are with them nine and a half hours a day,” said Stenseth. “You have tons of time wrapped up with them. Ace was truly my partner. I am kind of an emotional basket case right now.”
“The biggest thing is, he was a great loss to me but to the department as well,” said Stenseth. “Ace also worked in Polk, Pierce and Dunn counties.”
The department plans to acquire another dog. Ironically, Stenseth will be a guest instructor this spring at the St. Paul Police Canine Training Facility. He hopes to train his new partner at the same time.
“It will be a German shepherd dog,” said Stenseth, who has asked third and fourth grade students in New Richmond to suggest prospective names for his new partner. These are classes he and Ace visited during their many public demonstrations. “We want a great working dog but on the flip side we need a social dog as well.”
According to St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts, the canine officers are a very valuable asset to the department.
“I’d like to replace the dog,” said Shilts. “By having three dogs it allows us to keep a K9 officer on duty every day. I really appreciate the community effort through donations and in-kind services. Without them I don’t know if we could afford to have a K9 unit.”
While Deputy Stenseth is waiting to hear about is new partner, the department still has two other K9 officers on the job; Deputy Justin Johnson with Cash and Deputy Jason Sykora with Doc.
A fundraiser for the St. Croix County Sheriff Department’s Canine Unit is planned for May 21 at Float-Rite Park in Somerset beginning at noon.