Belgian Malinois Ike is a $9,137 investment for the Modesto Police Department.
But to the Pershalls, he is a member of the family, a reminder of a father and husband who was lost.
The Modesto City Council on Tuesday will consider, at the police chief’s suggestion, to sell Ike to Sgt. Mike Pershall’s family for $1.
Pershall died Aug. 22 when he was struck by a suspected drunk driver while riding his bicycle off-duty in east Modesto. Pershall had been Ike’s handler for two years.
Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said his desire to essentially give Ike to Pershall’s family might not be popular among everyone – the dog is 3 years old and most K9’s work until they are 8 or sometimes as old as 10 – but he feels it is the right thing to do.
"It is not a good deal for the police department to lose the dog," Carroll said. "But there is also the human factor of, you have a wife and two kids who just lost their dad, and that’s the family dog. What is the right thing to do?"
Modesto Police Canine Association president and K9 handler Daniel Starr said the association "absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, supports giving Ike to Pershall's family."
"We spend more time with our dogs than we do with our wives and kids ... so there is a bond there that no one understands unless they are currently or have been a K9 handler," Starr said. "But the dogs spend a significant amount of time with our wives and children as well, and there is a significant amount of comfort they bring (to our families) because they know the dogs protect us while we are at work."
Starr said the association was created in 1999 to pay for the ongoing veterinary care, kenneling and ultimately death costs of retired canines. It's been the practice in the department to sell those canines to the handler for $1.
The sale absolves the city of any further financial responsibility for the dog, and that is where the association steps in.
Two weeks before his death, Pershall was promoted to the rank of sergeant. As a result, Ike was to be trained with a new handler.
But that transition had not occurred at the time of Pershall’s death, and Ike has remained with the Pershall family.
Ike's original name was Chente. Pershall renamed him as a play on Mike and Ike candy but also after another K9 officer’s dog. Ike is the first Modesto Police K9 to be born in Mexico, and he responds to commands in French, Carroll said.
Taking Ike now "would literally be going into a family who just lost their husband and dad and taking another member of the family," Carroll said.
While Ike was paid for with taxpayer money, the most recent addition to the K9 team was paid for by the Modesto Police Canine Association, Carroll said. So, giving up Ike will be "kind of a wash."
Funds from the canine association come from fundraisers and donations.
Carroll said he plans to discuss with the association purchasing other dogs in the future.
Starr said he would be open to having that discussion but the association's original mission of paying for a dog's retirement care – including Ike's – will take precedence in how it spends its funds.
The Modesto City Council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the lower level of 1010 Tenth Street.