Buster, the Keizer Police Department’s new K-9 dog, gets close with officer Stephen Richardson, his handler, Tuesday evening at the KPD open house. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

To the Butler family, Buster isn’t just the Keizer Police Department’s new K-9.

Buster is also a prized link to family history.

During the KPD open house event Tuesday at Keizer Civic Center, Buster was introduced to a crowd of several dozen people. Buster will be officer Stephen Richardson’s new partner and replaces Axel, who will now be the Richardson family pet.

Buster shares a family pet connection.

Donations from the Kevin Butler Memorial Fund – as well as from Larry and Carol Jacobson – helped fund the purchase and training of Buster.

Kevin’s dad, KPD chaplain Randy Butler, was among family members on hand at the ceremony. Kevin would have turned 26 on Tuesday. Buster was the name of Kevin’s treasured dog, hence the name for the department’s new dog who is trained and certified in both patrol and narcotics.

“It’s very special for the whole family,” Randy Butler said of the new Buster. “I’ve been working with officers here since 2005. It’s a privilege to be part of such a great organization. They’re a class act. They’re family.”

While happy to see Buster, the dog was also a tough reminder for the family.

“It’s a bittersweet night,” Randy said. “This will be a great memory. It’s a small consolation, but it’s still good.”

Police Chief Marc Adams was appreciative of the support from the Butler family.

“We couldn’t have these dogs with just our budget,” Adams said. “Fundraising efforts were greatly supplemented by generous donations. We couldn’t do what we do without the support. Kevin Butler’s dad is the department’s chaplain and considers department members as part of his family. He is a great guy. This is a really special dog named in honor of Kevin’s dog.”

Richardson has been a K-9 officer the past eight years. He worked with Axel from the time the Belgian Malinois joined the force in December 2007. Richardson spent the last six weeks in Arizona training with Buster.

After working with Buster during his shift, Richardson will now go home and greet Axel.

“One stays outside, one stays inside,” Richardson said with a laugh.

Axel was deployed 198 times, conducted 160 searches and made 86 captures. He participated in 122 demonstrations, including events like the Keizer Iris Festival and RIVERfair.

While humans may get a golden watch upon retirement, Axel, 8, was treated with the dog equivalent: an oversized golden bone, courtesy of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. Those attending had cookies in the shape of a dog bone.

Cathy Clark, president of the Keizer City Council, presented the bone to Axel, who was a very willing recipient.

“We are proud of the K-9 units,” Clark said. “They have a long line of service in the Keizer Police Department. Generous donations from the community and Petco help keep the program going. The dogs are such wonderful partners.”

Buster is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois immigrant from the Czech Republic.

“These are incredible dogs,” Adams said. “When they get to a capture, they get into another gear. They are incredibly fast. This dog speaks Czech, but he’s rapidly learning English. Stephen and his supervisor went to California, looked at a lot of dogs and chose this one. This dog went to grad school and studied narcotics.”

In addition to the patrol training Axel had, Buster has the additional training and certification in narcotics, meaning he can be used for drug detection at McNary High School.

Buster seemed excited to be introduced, standing on his rear legs to greet Richardson.

“As you can see, he’s got a lot of pup in him,” Richardson said. “He’s an excellent partner.”