In January, Clinton unexpectedly lost a well-known and well-loved search and rescue dog. K-9 Deker, a Rough Collie, spent his entire 13 years serving the communities in and around Clinton County. Deker was a member of the Emergency K-9 Operations, Inc. Search and Rescue Team and had served on the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office Reserve. He was also a charter member of the Clinton County Emergency Management CERT Therapy Dog Outreach Program.
Deker began training for search and rescue work when he was only 3 months old. As a member of the Emergency K-9 Operations K-9 Team, he attained Operational Certification in Air Scent, Evidence Recovery, Building Search, Disaster First Response, Human Remains Detection, and Search and Rescue. Deker passed national certifications with the North American Police Work Dog Association and was the third K-9 to serve on the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office Reserve. He traveled to five states and attended nearly 500 hours of training at regional and national workshops in addition to weekly team training sessions.
Throughout his career, Deker successfully worked drownings, fire scenes, murders, evidence recoveries, missing person and human remains recovery cases, travelling as far as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ontario, Canada. Deker was deployed on multiple missions in the search for a missing 20-year woman at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. He also located evidence in a corn field linking a suspect to an armed bank robbery in Clinton County. In Davenport, Deker detected the buried remains of a murder victim who had been missing for over a year providing evidence for law enforcement to send a murderer to prison.
Nationally registered as a Therapy Dog, Deker was actively involved in school, civic and safety presentations. He visited many health care facilities including Genesis Medical Center Rehabilitation, the Ronald McDonald House and Hope Lodge. He took part in over 600 visits and programs including Bald Eagle Days, the Stand-down for Veterans, Military Family Summer school, Vacation Bible Schools, Library Reading Programs, Discovery Center, Safety Town, STEM Expo, and DARE school programs. He supported fire departments at Family Safety Days and law enforcement at National Night Out and Citizen Police Academies. Deker was selected as a pen pal in the Youth and Pet Survivors (YAPS) program based at Children’s Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. He also served as an Ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s Bark For Life for several years.
In the autumn of 2015, Deker began to limp. Initially diagnosed as a shoulder injury, he underwent numerous veterinary examinations and months of physical therapy. With no resolution, Deker was seen at the Veterinary Hospital at Colorado State University. There he was diagnosed with two bulging cervical discs. Since he was the perfect candidate, the CSU Neurologists invited one of the developers of a new state-of-the-art titanium disc to assist with the surgery. Deker walked out of the hospital the next day and along with months of rehabilitation, he was able to continue his search work and his therapy visits. Unfortunately, shortly after Deker celebrated his 13th birthday, his health deteriorated and he lost his life battle.
Throughout his lifetime of volunteer service, Deker and his owners, Lois & Bill Hall, were recognized by numerous organizations for their work. They represented Clinton as Hy-Vee Hawkeye Heroes in 2012 and received the Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2016. Deker also received national recognition from the American Kennel Club for Search and Rescue as well as the Distinguished Therapy Dog title. He was also honored as the Shining Star Ambassador for the Collie Club of America because of his service to the community.
Deker was truly a shining star. He listened to young readers sharing their favorite books at both the Clinton and Camanche libraries. He comforted those who lost loved ones. He searched tirelessly for the missing. His was a life well-lived. As we remember K-9 Deker, his greatness shines through.
A Memorial and Celebration of Deker’s Life will be held at the Lodge in Eagle Point Park in Clinton, IA, on March 11 at 1:30. The public is welcome to attend, to participate and to share their memories of Deker.