GRPD Loses Long-Time Police Dog to Cancer

Posted at 6:34 AM, Dec 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-03 07:44:58-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- The Grand Rapids Police Department has lost it’s longest serving, and most successful, police dog.

K-9 Bak succumbed to a fast-moving cancer of the spleen.  He was 9 ½ years old.

Bak served the department over eight years and recently retired in September, according to a police press release.

The dog was handled by Officer Mike Lafave and tracked suspects anywhere. In one incident, a suspect wanted on a felony warrant ran from officers and climbed underground in a drain pipe access. Based upon K-9 Bak’s indication that the suspect was underground, excavating equipment had to be brought in to bring the suspect up.

Officers say K-9 Bak was an extraordinary tracking dog. Nationally, police dogs are successful about 3-5% of the time they try to locate a suspect on a track. Despite working almost exclusively in an urban environment, K-9 Bak was successful on 36% of his tracks. K-9 Bak had 130 successful tracks during his tenure at GRPD.

K-9 Bak was brought to Grand Rapids in 2004. Donations from Meijer’s, Milkbone, and the Grand Rapids Police Canine Unit Foundation assisted with his purchase. He was trained, along with two other dogs, by Officer Lafave and other members of the GRPD K-9 Unit. The department says training the dogs in-house saved a significant amount of money and produced excellent results.

GRPD says K-9 Bak was loved by many in the community. During an elementary school presentation, students noticed that K-9 Bak wasn’t wearing a badge and asked why. Officer Lafave explained that the department did not provide them to the dogs. Unbeknownst to Officer Lafave, the children brought the issue up to their parents. This resulted in a school wide effort to raise money for a badge. The students had raised $100 for a K-9 badge. The students came down to the police department and surprised Officer Lafave, along with K-9 Bak, with the hard-earned badge. Officer Lafave described this as one of his favorite moments with K-9 Bak.

Officers say K-9 Bak wore his badge with pride as he helped arrest some of the most violent criminals in town.  The badge always provided a visible reminder of who K-9 Bak was working to protect. K-9 Bak also helped return Officer Lafave and the officers on Patrol Unit One home safely each night during his eight years at the department.

K-9 Bak lived at home with Officer Lafave and his family.  He was loved at home and was an integral part of the daily family life.

During his GRPD Career, K-9 Bak went on 1,277 calls. He tracked, searched for drugs, and cleared buildings for hidden suspects, among other tasks.  He was responsible for the arrest of 149 suspects.

K-9 Bak will be buried in a private ceremony at Noah’s Gardens, 2727 Orange Ave SE.  His final resting place is alongside several other GRPD dogs in the “Valley of Heroes.”