Max, dog in blue

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Police dog Maximilian works hard, serves & protects alongside partner, best friend

LAWRENCE, Ind. – Most police partners will tell you that they are willing to take a bullet for their own in blue, however, some partners come in the canine persuasion and make more than a partner, but also a best friend.

Maximilian aka “Max,” a German Shepherd, has been a dog in uniform, so to speak, for the last five years. He was adopted by Police Officer Mike Clark of the Lawrence Police Department, in Lawrence, Ind. From that moment on, Max took on a role of a lifetime.

“My life has never been the same since I met Max. I cherish every day with him. I thank God every day for 4 Paws for bringing Max and I together,” said Clark. “He is not only a crime fighter, he is my best friend, my protector, my dog.” 

Max got his start at 4 Paws for Ability, as a rescue that Executive Director and Founder Karen Shirk brought into the service dog training facility.

“He started here in training as a service dog, but was going to be too much dog for our clients, so we decided to look for an alternate working placement,” remembered Shirk.

“He was rescued from a shelter, so we knew nothing of his life before 4 Paws. I believe he was a puppy when we got him. I was taken by him and named him Maximilian because I was sure he was going to do something great when he grew up.”

Something ‘great’ was right.

Clark, a police officer for the Indianapolis suburb, has been with the department since June 2005. And in January 2008, his department approved him for being a K9 handler.

“I was tasked to finding a ‘cost-effective’ option in choosing a dog. The average dog for police work costs $7,000 to $10,000,” said the officer.

But that kind of money wasn’t an option for the department. So as an officer, he did what he does best, he investigated and researched for the best he could find at a price they could afford.

After searching and searching, surfing and surfing hundreds of sites, Clark finally ran across 4 Paws for Ability. He sent Shirk an email that day. The next day she responded and told Clark about Max. 

“Being the researcher that I am, I began looking into 4 Paws and what it was all about. After seen Karen’s story and all the videos on YouTube, I knew that this was the place to go.”

After several emails and photos of Max, Clark hopped into his car and made the trek to Xenia, a more than two-hour trip.

Clark and his travel companion arrived late in the morning on Jan. 30, and as soon as they walked inside, staff members and then Karen met with them.

After chatting for a bit, Clark laid eyes on Max, the sturdy German Shepherd.

“I have been a German Shepherd-lover all my life, and when he came around the corner, I was in love with him,” remembered Clark.

Max instantly jumped into his new partner’s lap, and started excitedly liking his face.

“I knew then, that this my boy,” said Clark.

Once he met Max, it was time to meet trainer Jeremy Dulebohn. He showed Clark all of Max’s tricks and commands and even though Clark said his mind was made up from the moment they met, it was now a decision that had no hesitation whatsoever.

“As my visit was coming to an end, the mood changed in the room because the staff realized I was taking him to his forever home.”

After nearly a full bag of Beggin’ Strips and throwing a tennis ball around from one side of the room to the other, the tears started to flow around 4 Paws.

“After all the goodbyes, I promised everyone that Max would be the best-cared for and loved dog they had ever adopted out. As we hit the road and headed home, I knew that I had made the right choice and was already looking forward to what would become of Max and me.”

Max and Clark arrived home later that same day. Clark began introducing his new furry friend to his female German Shepherd, Lucy. While Clark admits to being nervous at the introduction because Lucy isn’t exactly dog-friendly, he took the advice that Dulebohn gave him while at 4 Paws. He introduced them slowly, while wearing muzzles, for safety. After a few days, Clark removed the two dogs’ muzzles and hoped for the best between them. That’s when he said the “real test” began.

“Lucy set the ‘rules’ and after that, Max and Lucy have been attached at the hip ever since. If Max hears a noise by the front door, he has to run and find Lucy so they can bark together. It really is funny. They wouldn’t know what to do without each other,” Clark said of his pair of German Shepherds five years later.

Less than a month after returning to Indiana, Max and Clark started their training with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) for Narcotics Detection.

“Max took to this like a fish in water,” said Clark.

While the two were training with a group that had been together for months, Max quickly became the star of the class.

In June 2008, Max, then 11 months old, and Clark were the first in their training group to become a nationally certified “Narcotics Detection Team.” Trainers in the group raved about Max’s abilities, said Clark.

In fact, he had to turn down countless offers to sell Max.

“I was offered over $7,000 cash for him. There was no was that this would happen. Even though the money was tempting, I didn’t even flinch,” he said of the dog he knew was meant to be his partner in blue on the streets.

Soon thereafter, Max and Clark started their work on the road together, officially as partners for the Narcotics Detection Team.

Max’s primary function is to locate marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. He is trained to find those odors in cars, lockers, rooms, lockers, containers or in an open outside area. 

Some less serious and much more fun roles that Max plays include public relations. He goes to all parades, neighborhood crime watches and other community events.

“He is the love of the party. People line up to pet him,” said Clark, beaming with pride. 

Five years after adopting and training Max for the K9 unit, they now train the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department K9 unit on a monthly basis and Max is re-certified every year in Narcotics Detection.

Aside from pulling the late shift from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. as the primary on-call K9 team, Max plays a second role as protector. He is Clark’s wife’s sanity when he is not home, he said. And he’s justly rewarded for such roles on his days off.

When Max and Clark are off-duty, Max spends his days lounging around the house, taking up most of the couch, said Clark.

But the dog that fights crime and sniffs out the drugs also sniffs out his one weakness at home… popcorn. And, well, he might just deserve a snack from time to time.

“As soon as my wife puts the bag in the microwave, Max stands with is nose the glass and watches it pop,” said Clark. “At that point, I don’t matter. I can call and call him, wave a tennis ball and he doesn’t budge. He wants his popcorn and that’s all that matters.”

Aside from ignoring Clark when popcorn is in the picture, Max is the officer’s right-hand dog at home and in the cruiser.

“I can’t believe it’s been so long since he became not only my partner, but also my best friend. He is doing well and is the best dog I could ever imagine,” said Clark of Max, who has found more narcotics than you could think of… not counting the $16,533 in drug money he has found.

“I couldn’t be happier.”

-By Jessica Noll-Korczyk