Henry, longtime police K-9, to retire April 17

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 8, 2015


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Henry, the Shelby Township Police Department’s 75-pound, 10 1/2-year-old German shepherd, will work his last shift as half of a K-9 unit on April 17.

For the past 9 1/2 years, Henry has lived and worked with his handler, patrolman Kevin Treworgy. Henry has gone on more than 100 raids, sniffed out the tracks of countless criminals and helped fight crime in a wide range of capacities.

Treworgy said that he got Henry when Henry was a year old in November 2005.

“He was partially trained in narcotics, tracking and bite work, and then after I got him, after a week or two of him and I getting used to each other, we went to a five-week class to learn how to use the dog … and get certified,” Treworgy said. “On Feb. 1 of 2006, we hit the road and have been busy ever since.”

On Henry’s first traffic stop, Treworgy said, Henry helped make a big bust. He indicated a scent on the driver’s seat, and police discovered 12 bags of marijuana hidden in the suspect’s pants. Later, police found several more pounds of marijuana in the suspect’s residence, plus a loaded gun and more than $100,000.

In that first forfeiture alone, Treworgy said, Henry more than paid for himself.

For the first two years of Henry’s career, Treworgy drove the previous K-9 unit’s car, which did not have room for a prisoner in the back, so he had to call for backup if he made an arrest during a traffic stop. Now he drives an SUV that says “Henry” on the sides and has space for Henry and a prisoner.

Despite being the K-9 handler, Treworgy still performs patrol officer duties, such as responding to domestic calls, responding to retail frauds, writing reports and responding to accidents. He works the same hours as officers in the township’s narcotics bureau, and when Henry’s service is required, they respond.

Treworgy and Henry respond to calls from other police departments in the area if they are they only K-9 team available.

“It’s a fun job,” Treworgy said. “You get to do your regular stuff, but you also do extra stuff. You do the raids, you help the detectives and see how other departments work and, basically, show off.”

Treworgy said that, over the years, his relationship with Henry has grown, and Henry responds promptly to his orders, although there are times when Henry catches a scent and wants to “go, go, go, go, go,” and Treworgy has to manually hold Henry back.

“It’s unbelievable how smart (police dogs) are,” he said. “They know when it’s time to work and when it’s time to turn it off and relax, although Henry doesn’t fully relax. He’s hyper all the time, but he’s not aggressive at home.”

Treworgy said he has two lab mixes that he has owned for eight and nine years, respectively, and Henry never snarled at them, although they do play rough.

When Henry is in work mode, however, Treworgy said Henry would want to kill other dogs. He said police dogs have two indications: passive and aggressive. Passive dogs are commonly used as bomb dogs, and they sit and look at where a scent originates. Henry, an aggressive dog, scratches and chews things up to get to the source of the smell, Treworgy said.

In work mode, Treworgy said, Henry becomes heedless to injuries, which he has suffered several times, including needing 15 stitches for a sliced pad on his paw.

“We were on a track one night and found what we were looking for. He’s spinning, all happy — he’s got his ball — and I just happened to look and there’s blood all over where his feet were and leading to the car,” he said. “He’s crazy like that.”

In Henry’s older age, Treworgy has been limiting what Henry does. During weekly training, they stopped doing aggression work, or attacking pseudo “bad guys,” several months ago.

“He used to be able to go over 6-foot fences by himself. He’ll still try, but I don’t want him to, because if he gets hurt, it’s kind of like falling down at 70 and having a hip injury,” he said.

Treworgy said it will be sad for him to lose his work partner for the last decade April 17.

“He’ll just be hanging out at the house,” he said. “For a while, it’s going to kill him because he’s going to see me getting dressed, and he’s going to know I’m going to work and he’s going to be like, ‘Hey, it’s time to go!’”

Police Chief Robert Shelide said the average career of a police dog is nine years.

“Any K-9 that is used properly is a tremendous benefit to a community,” Shelide said. “My understanding is that our K-9 has been basically used as a crime-fighting tool and not really as a community-policing tool.”

He said he envisioned a K-9’s role to encompass both a community-policing aspect, such as demonstrations at elementary schools to reach kids at a young age, and a crime-fighting aspect.

“That’s one little piece of the community-policing philosophy that I have and that I’d like to do in the future,” Shelide said.

Supervisor Rick Stathakis said the next step after Henry’s retirement would depend on Shelide coming to the board and making a recommendation.

“Henry is going to be a big loss to our Police Department. We will miss him. He’s done an excellent job,” Stathakis said. “Until a recommendation is made, I really can’t comment, but I know Chief Shelide is most certainly working on a replacement plan.”

He said the final decision regarding a replacement K-9 would ultimately be up to the Board of Trustees.

Shelide said he intended to schedule a meeting with the Board of Trustees before the end of the month and that there was strong community support in favor of replacing Henry with another K-9 unit.