Thor gets a second chance at life

Police dog has been valuable addition to East Bethlehem department

July 27, 2013
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
East Bethlehem police Chief Mark Pompe and his police dog, Thor, are partners when it comes to solving cases. Thor has been trained to search out drugs and track and attack, if necessary. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Although the pair work together, East Bethlehem police Chief Mark Pompe and Thor know when to take a break from work and get a little play time. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Police dog Thor goes after dog trainer Donnie Weaver during a training exercise alongside East Bethlehem police Chief Mark Pompe. On command, Thor will attack the bite sleeve over the arm to simulate an attack to practice listening to commands. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Police dog Thor goes after dog trainer Donnie Weaver during a training exercise. The dog is instructed to attack or let go, with trainers using German words for commands. Order a Print

No one is quite sure of the age of the newest member of the East Bethlehem Township police department.

Thor, the K-9 partner of Chief Mark Pompe, was hours away from being euthanized at an Ohio shelter when he was rescued as a potential police dog.

“He was taken to the shelter because his previous owner said he was too aggressive and couldn’t be controlled,” Pompe said. “He was put through a battery of tests. When he passed, he was rescued.”

Thor is a German shepherd mix.

“We are not sure of his age,” Pompe said. “His coat is still changing colors, so he is 2 or 3 years old.”

Like many police dogs, Thor is trained for both narcotics detection and tracking.

Donnie Weaver, who is originally from the Fredericktown area and works with dogs in Texas, recently served as a training partner with Pompe and Thor. After Weaver donned a “bite sleeve,” Pompe gave the dog a command to attack.

“You’re not really a handler until you’ve been bitten,” Weaver said. “A dog’s bite has 400 pounds of pressure.”

Pompe said the first thing the trainer did when he arrived to work with Thor was put Pompe in a bite suit.

“I had the biggest dog there come after me,” Pompe said. “You learn real quick what it is like.”

Weaver said police K-9s are a good psychological deterrent.

“None of the suspects I’ve encountered with Thor have wanted to run,” Pompe said.

Pompe works with Thor every day, doing obedience work each day and working on drug detection or tracking several times a week. Thor is trained to detect cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.

“He loves training,” the chief said. “It is like a game to him.”

When he was done with the bite sleeve, Thor grabbed it like a toy and carried it back to Pompe’s cruiser.

“I will put a hot dog on my shoe and walk through an area,” Pompe said. “I will just leave the hot dog as a treat and then take him out to track.”

Thor and Pompe not only train on a daily basis but often work with other K-9 teams, including the Southwest Regional police unit.

Pompe said Thor loves his job.

“Every day he gets excited to go to work,” Pompe said. “He goes right out to the police car.”

Thor already has proven his worth to the department. Soon after joining the department, Thor was part of several drug arrests. In April, he tracked the route taken by a man accused of robbing a Fredericktown beer distributorship.

“He tracked him a mile and a half,” Pompe said. “Others told me there is no way that is the way the robber fled, but you have to trust your dog. And sure enough, when I arrested him he told me that is how he fled.”

Keeping Thor happy, healthy and well-fed is a community effort. Veterinary care for him has been donated, and fundraisers were held by businesses to purchase the dog and needed equipment.

But at home, there is time for fun with Izzy, Pompe’s black Labrador retriever, who is about the same age as Thor.

“Those are like two peas in a pod,” Pompe said. “They have a blast together. He loves chasing the ball with her.”

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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