BLOOMER, Wis. (WEAU)- While local health experts say drug use is a much too common and growing issue, they're hoping a new city resource will help curb the issue before it shows up at hospital doors.
“From the beginning to the end it’s always going to be about his ball,” said Officer Brandon Poppe.
It's all about that circular neon green ball for this pup, a training tool, for K9 Officer Rocky with the Bloomer Police Department as he showed off his drug detection skills for staff at Marshfield Clinic in Bloomer.
“I feel what makes this K( special to the community is how the community came together, donated a lot of money, so we could get the K9," said Bloomer Police Chief Jared Zwiefelhofer. "The dog has not only become a drug dog, but a community relations dog for the police department."
Officers say they were surprised how quickly they were able to add Rocky to their team as community members helped raise around $25,000 in just two-and-a-half months.
“I was expecting it to take 8 months to a year to raise funds for Rocky and the car,” Poppe said, who is Rocky’s handler. “It took us just a little over two-and-a-half months. The community really backed the program; it's a great thing to see.”
Rocky has now been with the department for about six months and already has proven to be a useful resource in helping combat drug use within the community.
“We’ve had a few drug busts with Rocky in the city,” Poppe said. “Normally it’s an assistance call. I have run him on a couple of traffic stops that I have made.”
“Drugs are in every community and this is just another tool on our belt to stop this from happening,” Zwiefelhofer added. “Hopefully if people need some treatment, we can catch them and they can get their treatment; or if they don't stop they have to be incarcerated.”
Thursday's drug detection demonstration was a sight Dr. Sandy Frohling says is helpful to see as she works with people affected by illegal substances nearly every day.
“We only see our end of things and it’s really awesome to see what Rocky can do to help law enforcement,” Frohling said. “We’re not on that end of things; we don't see what the police officers see.”
While K9’s are not typically seen at local hospitals and clinics, Frohling says by using this resource, it helps prevent cases from ending up at their door.
“It’s not a tool to help us manage an individual patient, it’s more of a public health tool,” she said. “If we can have law enforcement using Rocky to detect that, so we can direct people through the legal system and hopefully get them help.”
Marshfield Clinic is one of the Bloomer K9 program sponsors.
The Bloomer Police Department says they're continuing to raise money to keep the K9 program running, as costs of food and training equipment never end.