Marlin, a longtime member of the Glendale Police Department's K-9… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
Unexpected medical issues have forced two longtime Glendale policedogs to retire early and another one to work part time, leaving just one full-strength dog to carry the unit.
Police dogs Marlin and Sam retired this summer after roughly six years sniffing out bombs, narcotics and suspects. Marlin lost his sense of smell, and Sam, after years of strenuous physical demands, developed arthritis and a pinched nerve that causes his legs to fall asleep without steroids.
The third dog, Quwai, is working part time in narcotics searches because he too has been struggling with medical issues, including difficulty climbing and bounding in and out of cars. If the unit weren't stretched so thin, police said, Quwai probably would be in retirement too.
"He will eventually retire, but right now, they can't do that," Capt. Carl Povilaitis told a police advisory committee last week.
That has left Yudy, the only female in the group, and her handler, Officer Maribel Feeley, to carry the K-9 unit.
"I was really expecting him to go another year," said Sam's handler, Officer Shawn Sholtis.
Traditionally, the department's K-9 unit is made up of four patrol dogs and police handlers whose primary function is to conduct patrol searches, which reduces the amount of time spent looking for suspects.
Marlin, Quwai and Yudy were also trained in sniffing out narcotics, and Sam was skilled in bomb detection.
Yudy is slated to get some backup as soon as Monday, when the Police Department could welcome a new addition to the K-9 team. The 2-year-old male German shepherd, named Drago, arrived from Germany three weeks ago and has been undergoing tests to determine whether he fits with the department.
Sholtis, who had to test with other applicants for the dog handler position, will start training with the dog Monday.
Meanwhile, Marlin and Sam are adjusting to retired life at the homes of their handlers. Sam has already picked up pet habits such as licking food off the floor.
"He is definitely adjusting well to dog life," Sholtis said.
And instead of leading the structured lifestyle of a police dog and being assigned to a kennel, the dogs can now roam around at their leisure.
"They all put in a long service life," Povilaitis said.
The Police Department allowed the handlers to buy their dogs for $1 to avoid liability issues.
Now attention has turned to the program and options for rebuilding it.
"We still have a commitment to the canine program," Povilaitis said.
Federal funding will pay for the purchase of the new dog, but police officials have considered combining their canines with the Burbank and Pasadena police departments to create a regional K-9 unit.
"I truly hope one day we get back to four dogs," Sholtis said. "It just seems like too much work for one dog. She is just stretched too thin."
Yudy will also be the only dog in the unit capable of performing bite demonstrations at the Glendale K-9s in the Park event slated for Oct. 15. Quwai may demonstrate a narcotics search.
The event is organized by the Glendale Police Foundation, which pays for the dogs' training, equipment and medical needs, member Mary Ann Plumley said. Money raised at the event will be earmarked for the K-9 program.
Other police agencies with canine units have agreed to participate in the event, Sholtis said.