Earlier this month, the town of Danville bid farewell to Donna, Danville Police's long-time K-9. Donna and her partner, Officer Mike Ireland, have been an integral part of the department since teaming up in January 2006.
"It's been great and very rewarding," Ireland said at the July 3 Town Council meeting, where he and Donna were honored by the council and members of the County Sheriff's K-9 team. "A lot of time goes into this…but the rewards of having a dog and working with a dog are second to none."
Since joining the police department, Donna has been directly or indirectly involved in hundreds of arrests, from simple misdemeanor crimes to playing a direct role in the location of drugs or criminal suspects. In addition to helping solve crimes, Donna was also an invaluable asset in public relations for the department; she and Ireland performed in over 100 public demonstrations. Donna's poise and control around young children made her approachable and endeared her to everyone she encountered.
"It was six years ago that Danville made one of its first steps…. We cautiously started a K-9 program and it was one of the best things we did," said Mayor Newell Arnerich.
Ten-year-old Donna, who was born and trained in Holland, is a Belgian Malinois. She began her career with Officer Ireland when she was three and is ready for retirement; Ireland pointed out that she tires easily in her old age. By Thursday, Ireland added, Donna does not want to go to work.
Ireland said that one of his fondest memories since being teamed with Donna was when they located a missing suicidal teenager. After threatening to harm himself, the teen ran away from his parents' home. Patrol officers had been on the lookout for the teen for over an hour when Ireland and Donna arrived on scene.
Donna tracked the teen from his home for just under a mile, following his scent along several area streets, before locating him unharmed under a nearby bridge.
Other notable achievements include tracking a bank robbery suspect to his apartment, locating an elderly resident who had gotten lost near Mt. Diablo and finding the weapon used in an armed robbery.
While Donna has left the excitement of professional service, she has not left her long-time partner and will continue to live full-time with Ireland and his family. Although Donna spent her first two years at the Irelands in a kennel with little exposure to his children or other dogs, Ireland said she has made the gradual transition to being a "normal dog" and is ready to enjoy a quieter life.
Donna will be replaced by Officer Tom Rossberg and K-9 Chef, who used to work for the Orinda Police Department. Ireland has now joined the Danville Police's detective department.