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 Sterling Heights K-9 officer Brian Krueger, second from left, with K-9 Rich, accepts the check from Susick Elementary School teacher Elaine DeGroot. Also pictured is Sterling Heights Sgt. Todd Langenderfer, far left, and Susick Principal Michele Babbish, far right.

Sterling Heights K-9 officer Brian Krueger, second from left, with K-9 Rich, accepts the check from Susick Elementary School teacher Elaine DeGroot. Also pictured is Sterling Heights Sgt. Todd Langenderfer, far left, and Susick Principal Michele Babbish, far right.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


‘Pennies for poochie’ purchases new K-9 vest

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published February 7, 2020

 Sterling Heights K-9 officer Brian Krueger, with K-9 Rich, visits Amy Karaskiewicz’s class Feb. 5.

Sterling Heights K-9 officer Brian Krueger, with K-9 Rich, visits Amy Karaskiewicz’s class Feb. 5.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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TROY/STERLING HEIGHTS/WARREN — Five years ago, students at Susick Elementary School held a friendly “Penny Wars” competition to support a charitable cause.

Together they raised $1,463. The money was set aside as teachers looked for the ideal way to donate it. Susick is part of Warren Consolidated Schools, and Michele Babbish is the school principal.

On Feb. 5, staff and students presented a $1,463 check to the Sterling Heights Police Department for the purchase of a ballistic vest for its newest K-9 dog, affectionately named Rich.

Teacher Elaine DeGroot led the efforts to raise money during the Penny Wars. Containers were set up in classrooms where students donated pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

“It was so well received. The children were so excited to participate,” DeGroot said. “I think it teaches compassion, and it teaches them to respect what police officers do and how often they go into dangerous situations. The children need to learn to give back to the community.

“These K-9 officers do such a great job,” DeGroot added. “I would like them to have all the protection they possibly can.”

Rich’s handler is Sterling Heights officer Brian Krueger. After the check presentation, Krueger, K-9 Rich, Babbish and DeGroot visited some classrooms, where Krueger talked about the jobs Rich performs.

K-9 dogs work with patrol officers to search for missing persons, suspects who left the scene of a crime, on narcotic searches and for barricaded gunman incidents. The dogs follow a trail of human scent when tracking for someone or something.

“His nose is a lot stronger than our noses. A dog’s nose can pick out the individual scents of something,” Krueger said. “He can smell you. He’ll follow your scent to where you are at. He can jump over a 6-foot fence with no problem. He gets put into a lot of dangerous situations.”

Rich lives with Krueger. The vest will be ordered once Rich has stopped growing.

“I thank you for doing the fundraiser to help keep him safe on the streets. He just turned 1 in November,” said Krueger, adding that the Russian-born dog is a Dutch shepherd who weighs 67 pounds and will weigh 72 pounds when he is full-grown. “He and I are going to be partners for the next eight to 10 years.”

Retired Sterling Heights Police Chief John Berg attended the check presentation, as did Sgt. Todd Langenderfer, Sgt. Aaron Susalla and Scott Anderson, the school district’s director of security and crisis management. Students Brian Chen, Addison Sachs and Kate Stucky also were present.

Berg, who works security at Susick, said Rich was named after former Sterling Heights K-9 officer Richard Heins, who died last year one month after he retired.

“Rich was probably the most well-known K-9 trainer in the Midwest,” Berg said. What made the Feb. 5 check presentation more fitting was that it would have been Heins’ birthday. “He would have been 55 today.”

Berg said the cost of a ballistic vest for a K-9 dog can range anywhere from $800 to $1,200, “depending on the size.” Any money left over will be used for food for Rich.

The Sterling Heights Police Department has three other K-9 dogs.

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