MARION — One year ago, Marion police officer Jason Schamberger and his K-9 partner, Lingo, paid a visit to the Walker Pickle Days celebration.
There, Schamberger and Lingo showcased the dog’s article searching skills — finding items, such as a wallet, that have a human scent on them. One woman in the crowd thought the whole demonstration was a set up, Schamberger recalls. So, Schamberger had the woman go hide her cellphone.
“Lingo still found it,” he said. “I made a believer out of her.”
Now, Lingo’s days of tracking down bad guys, sniffing out drugs or even showing off his searching skills are over.
After a nine-year career with the Marion Police Department, Lingo — an 11-year-old German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois mix — retired earlier this month. While Lingo still is healthy and capable of doing his job, Schamberger said he wanted his four-legged partner to enjoy the last few years of his life.
“I wanted to make sure he was going to have some time at home when he’s healthy,” he said. “I wanted him to have a normal at-home life, as well.”
Trained at the Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., the Marion Police Department got Lingo in the spring of 2008. The police department wanted an older dog with more obedience training — known as a “title dog,” Schamberger said. When no title dogs were available, the department chose Lingo, who had been Vohne Liche’s demonstration dog.
“He’s a rock star,” Schamberger said. “He was the first dog we looked at and he did everything. The skills were right there.”
After five weeks of training, Schamberger and Lingo returned home only to have the flood of 2008 hit. The pair spent the next two weeks working out of Palo, Schamberger recalls.
After the floodwaters receded and work returned to normal, Schamberger said it took Lingo about four to six months to realize he wasn’t taking part in just another training and that Schamberger wouldn’t be leaving him. Once that bond was forged, Schamberger said he and Lingo became even more effective.
“I think we just got more efficient at our job,” he said.
That efficiency allowed Schamberger to train Lingo in article searching, which he had not previously been trained to do.
Over the years, Lingo and Schamberger had several memorable incidents. Once, the pair tracked a motorcyclist who had fled on foot through the woods — in the dark — to a home in Springville. During two different drug-related seizures, Lingo found a total of $47,000 in drug money, Schamberger said.
“Lingo has paid for himself, times three,” he said.
Nowadays, Lingo gets to stay at home, trot around with his favorite toy — a black Kong — and run around in the backyard. Schamberger still is on patrol, just without his partner. That’s taken a bit of adjusting, he said.
“That silence, it will take some getting used to,” he said. “I felt like I always had a full-time partner riding with me. If I ever needed help, I always knew he was in the squad car with me.”
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