Folcroft Police enlist bomb-sniffing expert

Sarge, a Belgian Malinois, with his partner, Folcroft Police Sgt. Eugene Mackey. The dog was bought from an Ohio breeder.
Sarge, a Belgian Malinois, with his partner, Folcroft Police Sgt. Eugene Mackey. The dog was bought from an Ohio breeder. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 27, 2013

Meet Sarge - the $10,000 dog.

The two-year-old, 60-pound Belgian Malinois is the newest member of the Folcroft Police Department in Delaware County, complete with leather collar, bulletproof vest, and an insatiable appetite for tennis balls.

"They think I'm a tennis pro at Modell's," said his partner, Officer Eugene Mackey.

Sarge, a bomb-sniffing expert and patrol K-9, is part of a special breed. In smaller police departments such as Folcroft's, the K-9 unit is an endangered species, an immense expense at a time of tight money.

A dog can cost from $8,000 to more than $12,000, and that's just the beginning. Add food, veterinary care, continued training, liability insurance, kennels, and specially equipped police cars, and expenses can easily exceed $20,000.

Folcroft was able to acquire Sarge from an Ohio breeder who specializes in training police dogs for $10,000 through donors.

He started work last month, joining Umberto, a German shepherd that specializes in drug detection and patrol, and replacing Mackey's former partner, Logan. At age 7, Logan was diagnosed with a progressive spinal condition that left him unable to walk, and he was euthanized in November 2011.

The Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES) in Langhorne came to the department's rescue. It donated $3,000 worth of services for Logan before he died, and started a fund-raiser for a replacement.

In all, $21,000 was collected, with Nissan of Devon kicking in about $10,000.

Sarge spends his off hours with Mackey and his family.

"My 4-year-old thinks he is her dog," Mackey said.

On Wednesday, Mackey took his new partner for a quick training run at the Folcroft Fire Department. Sarge bolted from the police cruiser, enjoyed a quick pit stop, and made a beeline toward some frozen goose manure before Mackey called him off.

When it comes time to work, Sarge is all business.

In the firehouse, Mackey had hidden a training aid that mimics explosive material under a couch cushion. On command, Sarge raced through the room, nose to the ground, over chairs and around furniture until he found the decoy.

He sat erect, fixated at the cushion, until Mackey gave the signal and handed him his reward - a blue and orange tennis ball.


Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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