Dog in training to replace retired Armstrong K-9 Officer Klif
A dog is in training and could be on the job by the end of summer to replace Armstrong County K-9 Officer Klif, who was forced into early retirement by disease in May.
The Region 13 Task Force, an emergency response group representing 13 southwestern counties, will pay for the $7,000 dog named Mibo — a 15-month-old German shepherd and Belgian malinois mix.
Klif's handler, Detective Mark Heider, is going through training with Mibo at the Pittsburgh Police's Canine Training Academy.
“It's bittersweet,” Heider said. “It's exciting to be with a new dog, but at the same time, it's very hard because I've got a dog that may be on his way out.”
Klif's final shift as a K-9 officer was Memorial Day. The 8-year-old German shepherd has been diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy, an incurable and progressively crippling condition similar to Lou Gehrig's disease in humans.
Heider began collecting donations to help with Klif's medical expenses in April. Since then, the public donated about $7,500.
“The outpouring was great. I'm still getting phone calls and donations,” Heider said. “It was surprising because I didn't realize Klif had this much of a following.”
And not all of Klif's followers came from Armstrong County, where he did his work sniffing out bombs and drugs. Tim Beachy, a Perryopolis resident and owner of A Breed Apart Clothing, designed and sold shirts with Klif's likeness on them and raised $875 for the cause.
“Once I heard about Klif's condition and realized they were working toward getting a new K-9, I was happy to help,” Beachy said. “I had a Great Dane named Gershwin who had the same disease, so I understand what Klif and Mark are going through.”
About $4,700 of donations — left after Klif's initial $2,800 medical bill was paid — will go toward training Mibo. Training and equipment for Mibo is expected to cost about $10,000.
“We've reached out to everyone who made donations, and they were all willing to let us use the money toward the new dog's expenses,” said Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi, whose office funds care and feeding of the K-9 officer.
His office will pay for any training costs for Mibo not covered by donations.
While the young dog is learning how to do his job, Klif is grudgingly settling into retirement, Heider said. The only treatment for Klif's disease is exercise, physical therapy and supplements.
“At first, Klif wasn't too thrilled with it, but he's accepting it a little bit more,” Heider said. “He still gets up with me every morning, but now he realizes he has to stay home with my family during the day.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.