December 2, 2023

Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s office has new K-9 – Boots

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The Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office’s new K-9 Boots is pictured with his handler Caleb Sawatsky (left), Bill Atkinson (center), and Sheriff-elect Kyle Burton on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the sheriff’s office headquarters in Milaca.

As a young boy in Texas, Bill Atkinson would walk his eight-mile paper route with his faithful companion- a dog named Boots.

“We did that together from the time I was 12 until I was 17,” Atkinson recalled.

Now living north of Milaca, Atkinson has had the opportunity to have the memory of his childhood dog live on in Mille Lacs County.

In exchange for a generous donation to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 program, Atkinson was given the opportunity to name the sheriff’s office’s newest member of its K-9 team.

Fittingly, Atkinson named the dog Boots.

Boots arrived in Milaca in July from Slovakia. He was paired with his handler Caleb Sawatsky before the team embarked on three months of drug and patrol training. Sawatsky and Boots graduated from training the last week of October, Sawatsky said. Boots is proficient in locating drugs and tracking suspects – so much so that the dog was named top dog of his class at training, he said. The duo has been working in the field for over a month now.

Atkinson donated to the K-9 program along with his wife Judy.

He explained how Boots has a connection to the phrase “Boots on the ground.”

In the military, “boots on the ground” refers to troops being engaged in active combat, Atkinson said.

Members of law enforcement can also have their “boots on the ground” after being dispatched to a serious call.

Atkinson recalled how he once worked as a U.S. marshal.

“I saw first-hand what these guys go through,” Atkinson said of the local sheriff’s deputies.

“They need the tools to do their jobs, and the dog is one of those tools,” he said, explaining why he and his wife Judy contributed to the K-9 program.

In addition, there is competition for funding at the county level.

So when it came to the K-9 program, “We put a little something extra in the pot,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said he is proud to be associated with the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office.

“They work real hard and are real efficient,” Atkinson said of the local deputies.

“I’ve been all around the country, and can say they are the very best,” he added.

As for Boots, he joins a team of three K-9 officers who help patrol the county.

The sheriff’s office’s Andrew Bromberg is the handler for K-9 Bongo, and Aaron Evenson is the handler for K-9 Greco.

Greco will be retiring at the end of the month, said Sheriff-elect Kyle Burton.

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