Cloquet retires blind police dog

K-9 Raja kenneled, treated for anxiety after handler declines offer to adopt his former partner.

Former Cloquet Police Department Detective Scott Holman and his former partner K9 Raja. The Cloquet City Council voted to retire Raja and put her up for adoption after Holman declined to take the dog as a pet. (Pine Journal file photo)

Lost in the uproar over the dismissal of Cloquet Police Department Detective Scott Holman by the Cloquet City Council in June was the fate of his partner — K-9 Raja.

The council voted unanimously to retire the 7-year-old Dutch shepherd during its meeting Thursday, Nov. 7, and put the dog up for adoption after Holman didn’t respond to communications from CPD Interim Chief Derek Randall asking if he wanted Raja as a pet.

Holman and Raja were part of the CPD narcotics unit for more than five years. Holman, however, was terminated from his job with the CPD in June following allegations of misconduct and a classification by the Carlton County Attorney’s Office questioning his credibility as a witness in court.

Raja was left with the CPD following Holman’s dismissal. A subsequent examination by Dr. Don Goebel of Crow-Goebel Veterinary Clinic in Cloquet revealed the dog had lost its sight and should be retired.

Typically, K-9s live with their partners when off duty — which was the case with Holman, too — and remain a part of the family after leaving service. After his dismissal, however, Holman declined an offer to adopt to Raja and did not respond to a message over the summer about adopting the dog.


In a subsequent message Holman questioned Raja’s sight loss and inquired about a potential injury as the cause. Acting CPD Chief Derek Randall said Goebel ruled out trauma as a cause of Raja’s blindness during his evaluation.

While Holman said he forwarded Randall’s letter inquiring about Holman potentially adopting Raja to his union representatives and attorney, he did not say he wanted to adopt his former partner.

Since Holman’s termination, Raja has been boarded with a number of kennels, most recently at Liberty K9 in Barnum, at a cost of $610 per month — or about $3,000 since June — to the city. What’s more, Raja also began exhibiting signs of separation anxiety and neurosis, constantly spinning in circles. Goebel prescribed her an antidepressant to treat the anxiety.

Jennifer Orn — a certified canine training and behavior specialist and the owner of Liberty K9 — also recommended retiring Raja after observing her over the past few months.

“In my professional opinion, the best option for K-9 Raja is to retire her,” Orn wrote in an assessment. “She needs time to adjust to losing her vision. She needs to be in a home with owners who understand her disability, her working drive and are willing to give her the extra attention that she needs and deserves. Blind dogs are in a very unique situation and need to be cared for very differently than dogs with their vision.”

There have been a few people who have contacted Liberty K9 about adopting Raja, according to Randall, but the city needed to approve her retirement before anything could move forward.

The CPD currently has one other drug-detecting dog on the force — K-9 Vader working with Officer Laci Silgjord — but Randall said there are no plans to replace Raja following her retirement.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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