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Brodhead prepares for first-ever K-9 unit
BRODHEAD - After dreaming of becoming a K-9 handler and working with drug enforcement for more than a decade on the Brodhead Police Department, officer Brian Bennett's dream is coming to fruition.

Soon, after support from the community and local businesses, Brodhead will welcome its first-ever K-9 officer.

"Pretty much my whole career I wanted to be a handler," Bennett said. "I wanted to do some type of drug work."

In 2015, Bennett expressed his desire for the dog to Brodhead Police Chief Chris Hughes, who was open to the idea.

"I saw the opportunity and approached him," Bennett said. "He agreed that we needed one based on the types of drug activity happening in our city."

Hughes said of all the officers, only Bennett desired to be a K-9 handler.

The department received approval to start fundraising for the K-9 in 2016, according to Hughes. A mark of $50,000 was set to include money for a vehicle, equipment, training and the down payment for the dog. That goal was met several months ago.

Fundraising was done through the Brodhead Police Association, a local nonprofit organization unaffiliated with the department but which works to raise money for it. Community members and businesses jumped at the chance to help. Donation boxes were set up at the Brodhead Piggly Wiggly, local gas stations and other businesses throughout the area.

The group has "Top Dog" donors, including Firehouse Subs and the Brodhead Area Foundation. Colony Brands is also expected to contribute later this year, Bennett said.

"We were taken aback by the support from the community," Hughes said.

Donations are accepted through the Brodhead Police Association's Facebook page. The Association recently started selling mugs which read "I Support Brodhead Police Department K-9 Program" in detailed graphics. Other items, like T-shirts, have been sold in recent months. A past dodgeball and bowling tournament in the first months of 2017 were also hosted as K-9 fundraisers.

"The community was a huge help. Everyone was supportive of it," Bennett said. "Everyone in the community knows we have drugs coming to and from Brodhead. The community has been really supportive of having our first-ever K-9 unit in Brodhead."

The department has made a down payment for a dog with the Steinig Tal Kennel in Campbellsport. This summer Bennett is hoping to get the call to visit the kennel to be paired with a dog and begin training around July or August. Training is expected to last around six weeks, and he will need to travel to Campbellsport daily.

Hughes is hopeful the K-9 will begin patrol before next winter. Field training for new officers recently sworn in to the department will need to be completed before K-9 training can begin, he said.

Bennett said he has reached out to several local K-9 handlers and has received helpful advice. He's looking to mimic how they run K-9 programs and monthly training.