Following the death of police dog Vox in August, the Johnstown Police Department is preparing to reestablish its canine patrol in 2011. The new dog has not been selected yet, but will be part of class of five dogs currently being trained.

Following the death of police dog Vox in August, the Johnstown Police Department is preparing to reestablish its canine patrol in 2011. The new dog has not been selected yet, but will be part of class of five dogs currently being trained.

"The dog is in training and probably won't hit the street until sometime in January, late January," said Police Chief Don Corbin.

Johnstown had a police dog in the late 1990s, with Officer David Butler, who left to join the Delaware County Sheriff. In 2006, Vox joined the force when Officer Jason Bowman was hired. Vox died of a rare protein disorder at the age of 5.

"He threw a blood clot in his lungs on a Saturday night and Sunday he threw another one and died from it," Bowman said.

Bowman was a good hire for Johnstown, because he works with his father Dan Bowman at Gold Shield Canine, a business that has trained police dogs for more than 30 years. That connection, along with the fact that Alison Bowman, Jason's wife, is a veterinarian, meant that Johnstown was able to establish a canine unit without substantial cost.

"We try to have a budget to help him out once in awhile, but without Jason being a trainer and his wife being a veterinarian we could not afford one," Corbin said.

Bowman already owned Vox, and to pay for extra costs, such as outfitting a vehicle for the dog, he raised money locally from business people such as Dave Gerhardt of Atria windows.

"When I started, the village said they wanted a dog and I was hired with the notion of having one," Bowman said. "At the time the village did not have the money, so I said that I had a personal dog and suggested we put him on duty and go out and raise the money."

Until recently the village used a 1996 vehicle from the city of Dublin that was about to be sold for salvage. The total cost of a canine patrol includes the $14,500 cost of the dog and training, and another $6,500 in modifying a vehicle, Bowman said. Ordinary police cruisers can be used, but Bowman said using Ford Explorers or Chevy Tahoes is the norm.

"Having extra room for the dog is so much better that it's almost essential," Bowman said. "You have to put in a live cage to house the dog safely, and you have dog equipment on top of the police equipment. The car is also equipped with a heat monitor in case it gets too hot. It sounds an alarm and automatically lowers the windows.

"It also has a bailout system, a little remote," he said. "If I'm out of the car and in trouble and I need the dog, it will automatically open the door so the dog can come to me."

The primary use of a dog in a community such as Johnstown is drug inspections and public relations, making people more aware of the police force. Both Vox and the new dog trained for narcotic detection and tracking, to help find lost children and elderly, as well as criminal suspects evading detection.

"Our dog will be a dual purpose dog, trained in narcotics detection and tracking," Bowman said. "If an elderly person or a child walks away and is lost, the dog can help find that person.

"He'll also be able to do criminal apprehension, which is searching a building or open area to find a suspect or a criminal that is hiding, and evidence detection to find evidence that has been discarded, such as a gun used in a robbery or a ski mask, or drugs thrown into bushes."

Bowman said the military uses dogs that are kept in institutionalized kennels and that are trained to minimize any attachment between dogs and soldiers, but the standard in police forces around the country is that the dog goes home with its handler.

"He will come home with me," Bowman said. "He'll be part of the family. Vox was a big part of the family. It was really hard when we lost him. This one will be too. I'm sure we'll have kids crawling all over him."