Ever since he was young, Matthew Karlowsky wanted to be a police officer, his father said. Then, when he was hired as a Washington patrolman eight years ago, he set his sights on one day becoming a police dog’s handler.
His vision came to fruition Thursday night when the veteran officer and the city’s new police dog, Golem, were formally introduced during a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall.
Golem, a 10-month-old German shepherd, could barely control his excitement for the ceremony, barking at times and searching for his ball in the cargo pocket of Karlowsky’s pants.
“He’s been wound up all day,” Karlowsky said. “Everything is play-driven.”
The dog was born in the Czech Republic and trained with Karlowsky for six weeks at Shallow Creek Kennels in Mercer County. Karlowsky gives Golem commands in Czech as they continue to train to hone the dog’s drug-detection and patrol skills.
“It’s like graduating the police academy again,” Karlowsky said after giving a short demonstration during the ceremony. “Every day is a training experience.”
Karlowsky served in the U.S. Army during the Iraq war and it was during that 14-month deployment that he wanted to work with dogs after watching military K9 handlers, his father, Rick, said.
“This boy has always wanted to be a police officer, and ever since then, he wanted to be a K9 handler,” Rick Karlowsky said.
Matthew Karlowsky said being selected to become Washington’s first police dog handler in 17 years is special and has energized him.
“It’s fantastic. It’s rewarding,” he said of the short time he and Golem have worked together. “I’ve always loved dogs and now I get to work with him every day.”
The community raised about $47,000 the past nine months to restart the department’s K9 unit, including a $10,000 grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation. Mayor Brenda Davis said the community support and local business donations were instrumental in bringing back the unit, and city officials hope to expand it to two dogs by the end of the year.
“If it weren’t for the donations from the community, we wouldn’t be able to have this special swearing-in ceremony,” Davis said. “He’s ready to be a police officer.”
City police Chief Chris Luppino praised Karlowsky for volunteering for the detail and noted how much work it is for the handler and his family.
“It’s a big sacrifice,” Luppino said.
Davis added Karlowsky was an obvious choice for the department.
“That takes a special person to take on that responsibility, as well as the whole family,” Davis said. “You have to continue ongoing training with the dog every day.”
The dog is trained for drug detection and apprehension, which Davis said was long overdue with the amount of drug activity in the city. She said the department and residents are eager to unleash Golem on Washington’s growing drug problem.
“My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Davis said of residents complaining about drugs. “The community really stepped forward.”