St. Paul Police Officer Dave Longbehn and K-9 Kody are seen on St. Paul's High Bridge in the summer of 2012.
Photo credit: St. Paul Police Department
St. Paul police officer Dave Longbehn knows what it's like to face death. And his K-9 partner Kody was always nearby.
In 2010, Kody was in the squad car, barking and scratching at the door -- desperate to help Longbehn fight off a suspect in the ambush shooting death of a Maplewood police officer.
In February, Kody was at Longbehn's side when police confronted a suspect, who then stabbed and killed the dog.
"He died a hero, and he died doing exactly what he was trained to do," Longbehn said. "He was designed to protect the officers that were there ... and attempt to locate the bad guy."
Nine-year-old Kody was weeks away from retirement when he died. His killer was fatally shot by police.
"You hope that day, that call, never comes where you have to use deadly force," Longbehn said. "You feel bad because we lost a member of the police department as a K-9 and we lost a family dog. But there's also a family that lost their son or their brother or their cousin or their uncle and that's a very tragic ending."
Longbehn said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community since then.
He now has a new K-9 police partner -- Duke. On Thursday, the pair will graduate from the St. Paul Police Department's K-9 academy.
One of Longbehn's favorite tasks with Kody was visiting hospitalized children. He hopes to take Duke with him someday.
A ST. PAUL FIXTURE
Longbehn and Kody were fixtures around St. Paul. Partners since 2005, they would visit schools, nursing homes, VFW posts and the Minnesota State Fair.
They even hit the national stage when St. Paul's K-9 teams were featured on an Animal Planet show, "K-9 Cops," which premiered in 2008.
"He was a real good street dog," said Longbehn, recalling how Kody once found more than $1 million in cocaine hidden in a vehicle.
When Kody was killed, Longbehn said, he received cards and letters of sympathy from all over. People also sent donations, which went to the St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation in Kody's name, said Lawrence Kelly, president of the nonprofit organization.
About $20,000 poured in, and a local woman who wanted to remain anonymous matched the donations. Merit Chevrolet in Maplewood gave $7,800 -- the price for a new police dog, Kelly said.
All the money will be used to buy new dogs, Kelly said.
The foundation purchases dogs for St. Paul police and offers grants so agencies in Minnesota and nearby states can afford them.
Kelly was surprised by the outpouring, but he also noted that Kody was a special dog who was very social and loved children.
"Kody seemed to really enjoy being with the public and he had a really outgoing personality, just like Officer Longbehn," Kelly said.
Longbehn, a St. Paul officer for 29 years, has been a K-9 officer since 2002. His first dog was Dakota, who died in 2004 from a rare intestinal complication.
After Dakota's death, St. Paul philanthropist John Nasseff bought a new dog for Longbehn. Longbehn worked with that dog for a time before it went to work with another officer, and Longbehn and Kody were paired up. Nasseff, a former West Publishing Co. executive, also donated the money for Duke, Kelly said.
A DARK DAY
On Feb. 12, members of the U.S. Marshals Service's North Star Fugitive Task Force, which includes St. Paul officers, were trying to arrest Alden Anderson, 32, in a Summit-University neighborhood home.
Ramsey County prosecutors had charged the St. Louis man the day before with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Anderson was accused of sexually abusing a relative for years, according to the criminal complaint.
In the basement of the home in the 700 block of Aurora Avenue, Anderson grabbed Kody and stabbed him, according to police. "Recognizing the threat," two deputy U.S. marshals and a St. Paul police officer, but not Longbehn, opened fire on Anderson, police have said.
While officer-involved shootings that result in deaths typically go before a grand jury for review, the Anderson case so far has not.
Longbehn's two children, who are now young adults, grew up with Kody and the dog's death hit them hard. David Longbehn Jr., 20, is studying law enforcement in college and works as a St. Paul police parking-enforcement officer. He aspires to become a St. Paul officer.
On Feb. 12, the younger Longbehn was starting his shift when he started hearing emergency dispatches about a stabbing and shooting, his father said.
"It was kind of chaotic on the radio," the senior Longbehn said. Some listening thought the officer was injured, he recalled. Longbehn quickly got word to his son that he was OK, but that Kody was not.
Longbehn rushed Kody in his squad car to Como Park Animal Hospital, and his son, fellow K-9 handlers and others met them. He said it was comforting to have everyone with him as they watched.
"We had a full house back there while they worked on the dog," Longbehn said, but Kody could not be saved.
The dog's remains were cremated and Longbehn has them at home, along with Dakota's cremated remains. He had a private ceremony for Kody with his family and other K-9 officers.
A NEW DOG
The plan had been for Kody to retire from police work at the end of February because of his age. He had also started to develop arthritis, Longbehn said. Kody would have continued to live with Longbehn and his family.
K-9 training staff had already picked out Duke from Slovakia, and the new dog, also a German shepherd and about 15 months old, had moved in with Longbehn at the beginning of February.
"The bond (with the dog) starts from Day 1," Longbehn said.
He describes Duke as "very intense ... very driven." He's hoping he and Duke will get to do one of the things he found most rewarding with Kody -- visiting patients at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul each month.
Along with Duke and Longbehn, there will be 15 other officers and their dogs graduating from the 12-week police dog academy. From time they're paired, dogs and officers spend their work and home lives together.
"I think as K-9 handlers we probably spend more time with our dogs than we do with our family," Longbehn said.
Copyright 2013 - Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service