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Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News
American Fork police officer Russ Bishop works with his K-9 partner Wolf.

AMERICAN FORK — The American Fork Police Department is raising money for two new police dogs to replace older animals in the K-9 unit.

The dogs that are part of the American Fork K-9 unit, Wolf and Duco, have had long careers. However, they are now 63 years old in dog years and starting to suffer from some of the ailments of old age.

Officers want to retire the animals and pass their duties to a new generation.

"You couldn't be as effective as an officer or as a community without a police K-9," said American Fork police officer Russ Bishop. "(It's) the greatest feeling in the world having a dog with you."

The Belgian Malinois dogs have been sniffing out narcotics and taking down criminals for the American Fork police force since 2006.

"They've been able to help us locate narcotics that officers would not have been able to locate," Bishop said. "That keen sense of smell is invaluable."

Duco was partnered with officer Ryan Archuleta for the past few years. The dog was always eager to work "and be my partner," Archuleta said.

The dogs live with their handlers at home to strengthen the bonds with the officers.

"I care for him, feed him," Archuleta said. "So he knows me as dad, basically."

"You work with these dogs enough you establish this, 'you're my partner, you're my buddy' type of bond," Bishop said.

The two American Fork K-9 teams have kept tens of thousands of dollars in drugs off the streets and chased suspects in neighborhoods, according to the police department.

"When I put him up in the vehicle, he's staring at me going, 'I'm up. Let's do something. Let's work.' That's what I love about him," Archuleta said.

Bishop said he feels more confident when he hits the streets with his canine partner, Wolf.

"Just seeing a K-9 officer show up tends to de-escalate a lot of situations," Bishop said.

But after eight years of service, the officers said the dogs need to be retired.

The Bank of American Fork has donated $11,000 toward the cost of two new dogs and their training. The community has raised more than $23,000 so far but needs another $7,000 to reach the goal.

The officers will pick out their new dog partners in March. The dogs will go through rigorous training and should be ready to be deployed in the field in the fall, police said.

Donations can be made to the American Fork Police Department K-9 Fund at any Bank of American Fork branch. Cash and checks also will be accepted at the American Fork Police Department.

Email: jboal@deseretnews.com