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Time to give Thor a break; WPD K-9 officer retires

WORTHINGTON-- The Worthington Police Department says goodbye to Thor, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, as he retiries from his duties as a K-9 dog. A retirement ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. today at Prairie Justice Center. WPD Sgt. Brett Wilt...

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Thor and Worthington Police Department Officer Colby Palmersheim are shown at a JBS picnic during their K-9 demonstration.(Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON-- The Worthington Police Department says goodbye to Thor, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, as he retiries from his duties as a K-9 dog.

A retirement ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. today at Prairie Justice Center.

WPD Sgt. Brett Wiltrout said K-9 dogs are locating tools that help officers finding evidence, drugs and people. The dogs also protect officers in dangerous situations.

“They can do the job of 10 police officers and do it five times faster,” said Officer Colby Palmersheim, who has been working with Thor since 2012 and is also his future owner. “They are an invaluable tool and without them, we couldn't do a lot of stuff that we do.”

In 2009, Wiltrout spent three months training Thor at the St. Paul Police Department K-9 School, where Thor received obedience, suspect research apprehension and narcotics training. After successfully completing his training, Thor started working with Wiltrout on June 1, 2009.

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  Right after Thor came back from training, he showed what a great asset he was to the WPD. Hehe was awarded “Rookie Dog” by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) Region 12.

  Wiltrout said he and Thor developed a great relationship while working together, but explained that it’s important for police officers working with K-9 dogs to keep in mind that they are not pets.  

“He was my buddy for four years and he lived with me and my wife, but you have to keep perspective because they are working dogs,” he said.

  Palmersheim, who is also leaving the WPD today, said working with Thor as well as being part of the Worthington police force has been a rewarding experience.

  “It was a blast,” Palmersheim said. “I had a lot of fun and I met really great people who I trained with, and that helped me be where I am at today.”

  Palmersheim said one of the most challenging parts of working with Thor was getting him used to following his orders as his new handler.

  “One of the challenges was to train a dog that was used to a different handler and making him know me as the master,” Palmersheim said.

  He was able to gain Thor’s trust with countless hours of training and spending as much time with him as possible. He added that Thor eats next to him, sleeps in his room and even goes on vacations with him.

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  “He went with me everywhere,” Palmersheim said. “He was at work and at home with me, and he also slept in my room, Whenever I would leave town, he would come with me.”

  During his time at the WPD, Palmersheim said Thor accomplished many great things. His favorite memory of him is a time they responded to a domestic incident outside of town a couple of years ago. When they got to the scene, Palmersheim was able to locate the suspect in a cornfield, but couldn't find the suspect’s gun and sent Thor to locate it.

  “Ten minutes after he had gone into the cornfield, he dug out the gun and brought it to me,” Palmersheim said. “That was a huge accomplishment for us, not knowing where it was but believing it could be out there.”

  Thor has been responsible for locating drugs, money and assets of approximately $110,000 over the course of his career. In addition, he tracked and located a sexual predator in 2012 near Bristol Park after the predator had exposed himself to a child.

There’s one great thing about K-9 dogs, according to Palmersheim, that goes beyond catching the bad guys. The dogs bring the community and the police together, he said.

  “One reason why it’s really nice to have the dog is for public relations,” Palmersheim said. “A lot people like police dogs, so if I would talk to some kids and they would ask to see the dog, I would bring him and let them pet him and play with him.”

  After all his accomplishments, it has come the time for Thor to enjoy the rest of his years left at home with Palmersheim. He explained that Thor tore his ACL a couple of years ago, affecting the dog’s performance in law enforcement.

  “He hasn't been himself since the surgery and he has been going downhill after that, but at the same time he still has fun at work and he does as good as he can do,” Palmersheim said.

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  Even though Thor will always have a police dog set of mind, Palmersheim said he transitions well from work to home life.

  “He is a big, scary-looking dog, but the people who come to my house and do know me are not afraid of him,” Palmersheim said. “He would lay down on the couch next you and let you scratch his belly while you watch a movie.”


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Thor is shown during the JBS picnic during a K-9 demonstration. (Special to the Daily Globe)

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