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Published: Tuesday, 3/23/2010

Donations keep Northwood bomb dog on job for 2 more years

Barney, with handler Patrolman Fred Genzman, is one of two bomb-sniffing dogs in northwest Ohio. The dog lives with Patrolman Genzman and his family. Barney, with handler Patrolman Fred Genzman, is one of two bomb-sniffing dogs in northwest Ohio. The dog lives with Patrolman Genzman and his family.

Sometimes Fred and Barney communicate in German. Sometimes it's Czechoslovakian.

But when Northwood Police Patrolman Fred Genzman gives the "load" order in English, Barney - the only bomb-sniffing dog in northwest Ohio outside of Lima - trots to their cruiser's rear door, opens the handle, and jumps inside.

"He's a character," said Patrolman Genzman, the half-German, half Czech shepherd's handler for nearly six years.

The duo recently returned to patrolling in Northwood and responding to calls throughout the area after the program was cut from the city's budget last year. Various area businesses and others joined to collect $7,901 for Northwood's dog program, including one anonymous $5,000 donor.

"He helps the region, and it's great having him available," said Northwood Police Chief Thomas Cairl. "It's just great seeing the outpouring of support."

Donations will be enough to keep Barney in service for at least two years, when he will be 9 or so and of retirement age. Barney will continue living with Patrolman Genzman, his wife, Michelle - whom the 90-pound dog annoyed a bit during his temporary hiatus from work - and their two young sons, Nicholas and Daniel.

Those additional two years will get the area through another presidential election season, when the U.S. Secret Service calls on the dog to sweep local campaign venues, Patrolman Genzman said.

"We're going to stretch it out, we're going to pinch the pennies," Patrolman Gen-zman said. "We're going to get him to retire."

Patrolman Genzman said he had mixed emotions when Northwood decided to eliminate the dog program because of budget woes. Northwood last year laid off four employees and is laying off another four as income tax revenues continue to plunge.

"I believe in the program, and it's hard to see it go away," said Patrolman Genzman, who returned to regular patrol while Barney was on furlough.

"However, people are getting laid off," he added. "It's hard to say 'I have a dog. I'm more important.'•"

Barney was purchased in 2004 with a $10,000 federal grant. Northwood has paid for his training, housing, and other needs. He was about a year-old when he came to the United States, and it took him a while to become accustomed to the food and water, Patrolman Genzman said.

Initially, Barney worked with another bomb-sniffing dog at the University of Toledo, but now the closest are in Lima and Cleveland, making back-up for bomb threats difficult, Patrolman Genzman said. Typically, trained dogs detect either bombs or drugs, but not both, he explained.

Life Flight, which donated money for the program along with Mercy St. Charles Hospital in Oregon, transports the team by helicopter for long-distance cases, Patrolman Genzman said.

Barney helps other law enforcement agencies track suspects, Patrolman Genzman said. They spend at least a half hour daily on training, and they also visit schools and agencies, he said. "He makes friends everywhere he goes," Patrolman Genzman said.

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