OSAGE | Retired Mitchell County Sheriff's Office K-9 Winnie, who died March 3 at age 14, truly loved her job.
Even after her retirement in September 2015 after a seven-year career of sniffing out narcotics, apprehending suspects and finding lost children, the German shepherd "still wanted to go to work," said her handler and partner, Deputy Gregg Halbach.
Halbach said he would sometimes oblige by bringing the senior dog with him to the sheriff's office for his shift.
"Everyone in the department loved seeing her," he said.
Winnie was purchased for $9,500 through donations and trained at North Iowa K-9 before coming to Mitchell County.
Halbach said he is grateful to Curt Younker, who was the sheriff at that time, for allowing him to partner with Winnie.
Halbach said some of his favorite memories of Winnie are "just the amount of time we spent together, riding around in the squad car late at night," as well as training sessions, finding drugs and just having fun.
He said there's a "special bond" between K-9 and handler.
One of Winnie's duties was protecting her human partner.
"She had my back no matter what happened," Halbach said.
Winnie was tapped 340 times during her career for her abilities to search and sniff out drugs. She contributed to 72 drug arrests.
Halbach and Winnie sometimes were asked to help other law enforcement agencies.
Winnie once tracked down a young Howard County girl who was missing for several hours in the woods during the winter.
She also helped find a man with a weapon hiding in a corn field in Worth County.
One of Halbach and Winnie's favorite things to do was giving K-9 demonstrations at local schools.
"Winnie loved the attention from all the kids," Halbach said.
At the beginning of the demonstration, Halbach would explain that although Winnie sometimes had to bite people to protect him and others, "she's not a mean dog at all."
Then the teacher would come forward and pet Winnie so the kids wouldn't be afraid.
Halbach said he is grateful to the Cedar Vet Clinic in St. Ansgar for providing care for Winnie throughout the years.
During her entire time with the sheriff's office and afterwards, Winnie lived with Halbach and his family.
Halbach said Winnie's loss is tough on all of them, he is grateful for their time together.
"She was just a great partner and I am forever thankful for her," he said.