West Caln Police Chief’s Canine Partner Calls It a Career, and What a Career It Was
For the first time in 19 years, Curt Martinez is without a partner.
Not one to sit behind a desk, the West Caln Township Police Chief goes on patrol every day, but now, he must go it alone since his partner Butch has reached retirement age.
“Butch is still high-strung, but you can tell he’s slowing down a bit,” said Martinez.
An 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, Butch is, after all, about 65 in human years.
Martinez has been a K-9 officer for the past two decades, as his tenure began with a position in the Coatesville Area School District with his first dog, Ricky, a German shepherd.
“Ricky was with me for 12 years, and we started the first K-9 team ever in a Pennsylvania school district,” said Martinez.
Over the years, the team was often detailed to county detectives, FBI and ATF agents, and U.S. Marshals for numerous jobs, and also spent time in New York City after 9/11 to give support to the overworked K-9 teams of the NYPD.
After Ricky was put down in 2010 when a tumor was found in his spleen, Martinez wrote a grant and received funding for his next dog. He attended three weeks of training at the K-9 Global Academy in Texas, and then came home with Butch.
“Ricky was a great dog,” said Martinez, “and I always said I wanted a challenge in my next dog, and Butch has been a challenge every day. He’s so high-strung but just wants to please me. He’s non-stop.”
The Malinois breed is a Belgian herding dog whose characteristics – being alert, watchful, protective, intelligent, energetic, and hard-working – make it a popular choice for police and military work. Butch also came with the added benefit of being trained in explosive detection.
Like Ricky, Butch accompanied Martinez on high-risk warrants, and worked as a deterrent in the apprehension of criminals while protecting law-enforcement officers.
“With the use of Butch, we apprehended people wanted for robbery and attempted murder,” said Martinez. “Several other cases were apprehended without a fight. He’s a partner, but he’s also a tool.”
So much of a deterrent are patrol dogs like Butch and Ricky that Martinez often hears an offender admit they would rather get shot than bitten.
In addition to taking Butch with him on patrol, Martinez regularly took his dog to local schools for presentations and demonstrations.
On one of those occasions, he met Philomena Stendardo, an eight-year-old who had been diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a fatal disease with a mean survival rate of just nine months from diagnosis. Stendardo introduced Butch to her class and then to her entire school.
“Knowing this girl had cancer but had so much life and fight in her touched my heart,” said Martinez. “It’s something I’ll never forget. Meeting her was one of the reasons I love my job.”
Stendardo, who was diagnosed on Sept. 15, 2016, died on July 23, 2017, but she lives on as the inspiration for the Storm the Heavens Fund to fight DIPG. Click here to learn more.
Retired as of Jan. 1, Butch now lives at home with Martinez, but can often be seen hanging around the West Caln Township Police Department.
Will the Police Chief ever get another patrol dog?
“I don’t think so,” he said, “but I miss it already. So, never say never.”
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