Cloquet narcotics canine earns final saluteThe back seat of Cloquet Sergeant Detective Scott Holman’s squad car is empty these days. That’s because his long-time K9 partner and companion, Tessa, had to be put down last week.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The back seat of Cloquet Sergeant Detective Scott Holman’s squad car is empty these days. That’s because his long-time K9 partner and companion, Tessa, had to be put down last week.
The prolific Belgian Malinois, a breed well known for what Holman once termed as its “enhanced drives,” was singularly responsible for the recovery of over a million dollars’ worth of illegal drugs in Carlton County and surrounding areas. Her teamwork with Holman also led to the arrest of thousands of criminals and drug traffickers, many of whom plied the I-35 corridor between Minneapolis and Duluth.
And almost as frosting on the cake, Holman and Tessa repeatedly took top honors at police K9 competitions all over the country, a testimony to the dog’s highly refined senses and diligent training.
According to Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande, the idea to get a narcotics dog for Carlton County first came about during the time that Chief Duane Johnson headed the department. The state had recently determined that confiscated drug money should go back to the department responsible for making the arrest, and Johnson, Lamirande and Officer Tim Lamminen decided to ask the city of Cloquet for permission to use some of the local drug money toward a dog.
Tessa was purchased with $3,000 of that money in 1999, with significantly more dollars going into training for both her and Holman, as well as her continued care and upkeep. She more than paid back that money within a very short time, and during her first few months on the job, she won “Top Dog” status at the USPCA Region 18 contest in St. Paul with a score of 199 out of 200.
For Tessa and Holman, there was no looking back. Over their years together they waged a personal war against the proliferation of drugs in the Northland, and they succeeded in bringing many of the perpetrators to justice. Along the way, the two became fast friends and dedicated partners, and while Tessa was all business out on the job, at home she was all pup – playing with toys, tunneling in the snow and romping at the hunting shack.
Their partnership extended well beyond the realm of day to day law enforcement, however. Together, Holman and Tessa traveled to schools and other events throughout the region to talk about Cloquet’s drug enforcement initiatives and give them a glimpse of how skilled Tessa was in nosing out narcotics. Holman once stated that she could detect if someone had smoked a joint in a car within the past two months and track down a single tiny marijuana seed thrown in a snow bank.
Tessa’s amazing skill and track record in sniffing out drugs remained intact almost up until the end. She made her last major drug bust in February 2012, unearthing a stash of marijuana with a street value of $20,000. After Holman was promoted to detective, Tessa’s time in the field was somewhat limited, but she remained on the job up until about six weeks before her death.
Lamirande said the department has an interest in continuing its canine program in some capacity in the future, and he hopes to bring the idea up at the working session of the Cloquet City Council in the near future. He said the department currently has $10,000 in its canine fund from the year it hosted the 2007 Police Canine National Competition, though he admitted the canine program is an expensive one to operate, including not only the cost of the dog and the required training but ongoing training needs, travel, and personal care and upkeep of the dog.
Lamirande said he feels confident that the city will give it serious thought, however, because of the outstanding success of Scott and Tessa in making our community safer.
“Without them, a lot more drugs would have wound up out on the road,” he concluded.
In recent weeks, after Tessa started eating less and losing weight, it became apparent that her overall health had begun to fail. And when the time came to make the difficult decision to have her euthanized, Holman already knew just where she would be laid to rest – at the hunting shack, where the hard-working K9 officer could always go to be a pup again.