By Kathleen Goddeyne -
In 2001, Mitch Caldwell, an active Fruita Police officer, adopted an 18-month-old German Shepherd named Anno. Cheryl Yaws, an officer for the Fruita Police Department who is certified in K9 training, and Caldwell, since retired, worked together to train Anno. In a short three months, Anno was completely trained for K9 unit work such as drug detection, building searches, tracking and handler protection.
The K9 Unit was started with donated funds. The Fruita Thrift Shop donated enough to purchase a police car and equipment for the K9 Unit.
Anno died Tuesday, Aug. 28, at age 13 due to a decline in health.
Caldwell considered Anno his partner, not just a dog.
“Everywhere I went, he went with me,” Caldwell said. “In 2002 my mom was in hospice in Colorado Springs. We would leave right after my shift here and go. When he would get bored hanging out with her [Caldwell’s mother] he would wander the halls of the hospice. The nurses thought he was a therapy dog. He would just go visit people.”
After eight years of work for the Fruita Police Department, Anno retired in 2009 at the age of 10 due to budget limitations.
“After he retired, he still came to work and he would just hang out,” Caldwell said. Any time there was a demonstration at a school or a daycare, we [Caldwell and Anno] did it. He would walk around and play with the kids and still be ready for the demo. I never worried about him turning and going toward the crowd.”
Anno should be remembered not only for all of his hard work in Fruita keeping the community safe, but for his social, friendly demeanor.
“He was real friendly,” Caldwell said. “A friend of mine had an 18-month-old that would come over and we would just put him on the floor of the house with the dog. He [the baby] had Anno’s toy. The baby had one end in his mouth and Anno had the other end in his. Anno knew it was a baby and he wasn’t going to hurt him. They were just playin’ with the toy.”
Not everyone can trust their dog with a toddler and certainly not all police dogs. Police dogs can of course be trusted, but their tolerance level is much lower than a regular. Caldwell said that police dogs are encouraged to behave more like wild animals, so a bunch of rowdy kids could set off a police dog in a bad situation.
Although Anno was a friendly dog, he was also tough.
“His big thing was that he screamed. He didn’t growl, he didn’t bark. He screamed,” Caldwell said.
After the first warning to criminals in a building search, Anno would sit and be quiet. The second warning cued Anno’s high-pitched scream.
“When he did that, pretty much everybody that we were searching for came out,” said Caldwell.
On one occasion, after Anno’s scream, the people being searched yelled down to police “Don’t send in that dog, we’ll come out!”
Caldwell sustained an injury in 2010 that forced him to retire after 10 years of service. Anno was right by his side everyday. The two made a great team for the Fruita Police Department.
“He [Anno] was just a great partner,” Caldwell said.