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Axe retires to smell the roses, not criminals or drugs

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K9 dog Axe shows a little muscle with his trainer Blackman-Leoni Department of Public Safety Officer Patrick Boulter. The two were at Blackman Animal Clinic Dec. 26 thanking veterinarians for their care over the years.

By Brad Flory – Exponent special writer

A dedicated crime-fighter retired Jan. 1 to spend more time enjoying the good things in life, like being thoroughly scratched.

He is K9 Axe, a German shepherd police dog whose retirement from the Blackman-Leoni Department of Public Safety was hastened by a hip injury sustained on duty three and a half years ago.

“He’s worked honorably and diligently for us, and he’s been very successful,” said Officer Patrick Boulter, Axe’s handler, and partner.

Axe, 7, was born in Hungary and became a canine immigrant to the United States. He received training for dual-purpose police duty at Northern Michigan K9 in Harrison, a full-time training center for dogs destined for careers in law enforcement.

As a dual-purpose dog, Axe can sniff out the trails of bad guys who leave crime scenes and locate missing persons who might become lost or disoriented. By sense of smell, he can find objects or evidence tossed by fleeing suspects.

Axe’s second purpose is narcotics enforcement. His nose is trained to detect illegal drugs.

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Blackman Township obtained Axe shortly after he finished training, in 2011, and assigned the dog to live and work with Boulter. To be effective, police dogs must form very close bonds with their handlers, and that requires a full-time relationship between human and canine.

Over the years, Axe has tracked armed robbers, found guns used in crimes, searched buildings for criminal suspects, and rooted out large amounts of illegal drugs, Boulter said.

Axe’s finest moment, in Boulter’s eyes, came about four years ago, when he found an autistic 3-year-old boy who was hiding in a woodland area. The boy faced danger of death by exposure.

“He has done a phenomenal job for the department,” Boulter said.

A little more than three years ago, Axe was hurt during a seemingly routine demonstration of police-dog skills at Blackman Township’s Rod Mills Park.

Going after a tennis ball, Axe jumped and landed badly. It still turns Boulter’s stomach to think about it.

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“We thought he had a broken leg. Thank God, it was not broken, but he’s had hip issues ever since,” Boulter said.

Axe takes anti-inflammatory medication every day, and as years passed he has grown less spry.

“He is nearing the end of his service life for the department,” Blackman-Leoni Public Safety Director Michael said.

Paving the way for Axe’s retirement, the department obtained a new dog named Pyro, assigned to Boulter. Blackman-Leoni Public Safety also has a police dog named Hooch whose handler is Officer Chris Jacobson.

Pyro is now fully certified and officially took over Axe’s duties Jan. 1.

What happens to a police dog after retirement? That issue was addressed by the Blackman Township Board in December.

By unanimous vote, the board agreed to sell Axe to Boulter for the sum of $1. Boulter expects Axe will enjoy his leisure time in retirement from public service.

“He’ll be able to do regular dog things,” Boulter said.

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