Royal Oak police dog Ryker retires, replacement selected

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 1, 2019

 LEFT: Officer Rich Chipman holds his police dog, Ryker, who recently retired from the Royal Oak Police Department. Ryker will live out his days as the Chipman family pet.

LEFT: Officer Rich Chipman holds his police dog, Ryker, who recently retired from the Royal Oak Police Department. Ryker will live out his days as the Chipman family pet.

Photo provided by the city of Royal Oak

 Conan, a Belgian Malinois and German shepherd mix who was born in Hungary, will team up with officer Kevin Cavanagh to be the Royal  Oak Police Department’s  newest K-9 officer.

Conan, a Belgian Malinois and German shepherd mix who was born in Hungary, will team up with officer Kevin Cavanagh to be the Royal Oak Police Department’s newest K-9 officer.

Photo provided by the Royal Oak Police Department

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ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak police dog Ryker has spent the last seven years faithfully accompanying officer Rich Chipman, catching bad guys and mingling with the community.

Ryker will now have to acclimate to the leisurely life of retirement, as the Royal Oak Police Department, for the health of the dogs, caps its four-legged employees’ careers at seven years.

“The dogs, I can tell you, are not ready to retire. They still enjoy working. They’re ready to go,” Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said. “Because of riding in the back of a car and the way they work, making them work longer than seven years really creates a lot of health problems.”

Chipman selected Ryker from Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana, accompanied by the Police Department’s former K-9 handler. He said he chose Ryker because Ryker’s toy reward drive was off the charts, he was extremely sociable and he felt an instant compatibility.

The pair spent five weeks training together in Indiana, and the first night they worked together back home in Royal Oak, they apprehended a subject wanted for questioning in a Detroit homicide case — Ryker located him hiding inside a doghouse.

Over the years, the pair has accrued a substantial set of accomplishments.

Ryker tracked and apprehended many suspects, including assisting in the capture of a subject wanted for breaking into several businesses on New Year’s Eve, finding a suicidal person who fled during transport to the hospital, and locating a larceny subject during a foot pursuit.

Ryker is also credited with the discovery of 14 kilos of heroin hidden in some piping, more than a million dollars related to illegal drugs behind a false wall, and a hidden safe under a floor with a large sum of cash inside.

Chipman said the team also had fun attending community events, such as neighborhood block parties, school events, the Citizens Police Academy, and reading the children’s book “Officer Buckle and Gloria,” by Peggy Rathmann, to children at the library.

“The opportunity to do it was awesome,” Chipman said. “I like the extra responsibility, and I like the work that comes with working with the dog. Going to training days, it’s amazing to see Ryker and all the other (police dogs).”

He added that the camaraderie between K-9 handlers from other jurisdictions will be a memory he will always cherish, but that he is excited for his next venture: working with a federal agency to disrupt the flow of drugs into metro Detroit.

Chipman said his work with Ryker, investigating drug rings and participating in multijurisdictional cooperation prepared him for the new post.

“Seven years is a good run with a detail, but it’s good to give somebody else the opportunity,” he said.

O’Donohue said that selecting the next K-9 handler was a competitive process that involved interviews and passing a physical test. The test simulates working with the dog and includes sprinting and climbing over fences while wearing an 80-pound pack.

“The most important aspect is that during their career, they’ve demonstrated a can-do attitude, been productive and have great public relations skills,” O’Donohue said. “The dog, although it’s a valuable law enforcement tool, is an invaluable public relations tool.”

Officer Kevin Cavanagh will be the next K-9 handler. He already picked out his dog, a 1 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois and German shepherd mix he named Conan, which is Gaelic for “little wolf.”

After they complete their training, Cavanagh and Conan will join officer Michael Stajich and Jesse as the second K-9 team on the force in November.

“The K-9s are probably the most popular officers in the department,” O’Donohue said. “Officer Cavanagh is an exceptional officer, and I’m sure he’s going to do a fantastic job.”

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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