Paxton police dog 'loved to work'

PAXTON — When Max passed away on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 12, Chad Johnson not only lost his best friend but also his longtime partner in crime-fighting.

Johnson lived and worked “24/7” with Max, the Paxton Police Department’s first police dog. Since Max was acquired by the department in 2006 at only 19 or 20 months old, the yellow Labrador and Johnson, his handler, had been pretty much inseparable.

Max loved his job — and it showed every time the two would leave their house in Paxton to go to work.

“He loved it. He loved to work,” Johnson said. “In the middle of the night, when we’d get a call to come out for a canine sniff, I’d get up, come in there (to his room) and as soon as he’d see me getting ready he’d jump up, go outside, do his thing, and I’d finish getting ready and come out and he’d be waiting right there ready to get in the car and go. And once them lights came on (in the squad car), he was up, he was whining, he was wanting out and to do his thing. And he did his thing and did it well.”

Before retiring from the police department in fall 2014 following a six-year career, Max gained a reputation for his accurate and reliable nose, which he used countless times to track the presence of illegal drugs and cash in pulled-over vehicles, to go along with fleeing suspects.

“He was good,” Johnson said. “He had a good nose and a good demeanor about him. ... I mean, there’s a lot of drugs that have been found by him — drugs, cash that was associated with the drugs. We had a lot of success with him.”

Max spent his later years battling health issues, including diabetes and seizures, Johnson said. After having a “bad” seizure recently, Johnson made the decision to have him put down. Max died around 4:20 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Paxton Veterinary Clinic.

Johnson still went to work that night, admitting that he needed to keep busy to keep Max’s death off of his mind.

“It’s easier for me to keep busy than to take time off and sit there and think about it,” Johnson said.

Johnson continues to mourn the loss of his buddy.

“He was just a big, old fuzzy dog,” Johnson said. “He was a lovable dog. He just loved attention.”

One of Max’s favorite things to do was play with his ball. He could often be found chasing his ball up and down the halls of the police department’s headquarters on U.S. 45.

“People would come in, and he’d grab a ball, take it to them, and they’d end up throwing it up and down the hallway for him,” Johnson said. “Then he’d be rubbing up against you wanting to pet him.”

Max loved food, too — “anything he can get his mouth on,” Johnson said.

“I always had to watch how much he got, because he loved to eat,” Johnson said.

Johnson immediately fell in love with Max when the two began working together upon Max being acquired from Mid-Michigan Kennels in Eaton Rapids, Mich. Johnson said donations from the community were collected over a 30-day period in order to buy Max and have him and Johnson trained together for about $8,000.

“Up at training, his nickname was Hank the Tank,” Johnson said, “because he was 100 miles an hour. When we were doing tracks up there — tracking people or whatever, for training and stuff — or when we did tracks here, he was 100 miles an hour. And if I tried to slow him down, he would just get down low to that ground and just pull me as hard as he could. He dragged me places. I mean, he was just ready to go. He wanted to work.”

Over the next six years, Johnson and Max would develop a special bond.

“I was constantly training with him,” Johnson said. “If we had a slow night, I was working with him, training with him more, trying to tighten up my training, making it that much better.

“He was a wonderful partner, a dedicated member of the police family and my family, and he will be missed.”

Johnson said he will never forget his friend.

“His affection. Just him being there,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’d come home from work and he’d be right there. He’d be right there next to you, wanting some loving.

“He was my best friend.”

Johnson said he has no plans to get another canine partner at this point.

“It’s too emotional for me. Too attached,” Johnson said. “Ya know, I’d been with him all those years and to go through what he’s gone through and trying to keep him happy — yeah, I’m done.”

The police department currently has one canine — Tago, handled by officer Thomas Sink. Johnson hopes the tradition of having a canine on staff continues well into the future.

“Hopefully the program keeps going because it’s an awesome program,” Johnson said.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County


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