Austin PD has a new member -- Sonic

Posted at: 04/30/2013 6:39 PM
By: Laura Lee

 (ABC 6 News) -- The Austin Police Department lost one of their own last fall. Ghost was a national award winning police dog and for Lt. Matt Holten, the death of his partner meant starting over.

If you know Lt. Matt Holten with the Austin Police Department, you probably know of his partner, Sonic.

This one and half year old Belgian Malinois is the newest edition of the Austin PD.

"He's very early in his training," chuckles Holten.

After just five months, Holten and his new partner are inseparable.

"My wife hates it when I tell everyone this, but I spend more time with Sonic than I do my wife," he says, "my canine partner is with me all day, he goes to work with me, he sleeps with me, we train in the afternoon and play in the afternoon."

Sonic loves to play with his ball and even has a few tricks. But this four-legged officer has got some pretty big paws to fill.

Holten's last partner of more than six years --- Ghost --- was a state and national champion police dog assisting with more than 50 arrests in his time with the department.

However, Ghost was taking medication for his seizures and over time, his condition worsened. On September 4, 2012 he was retired from the force.

"I knew then we were going to have to put him to sleep," says Holten, "it's sad for anyone who's had to put a down, stand by while they gave him a shot, it was difficult."

For Holten, Ghost was more than a partner, he was a friend.

"It took me almost nine months to earn Ghost's trust and respect, he was a pretty strong willed dog and it didn't come overnight."

"I think that's why we ended up being so close, I had to work really hard to gain his trust and when you have to work for something that hard it becomes more valuable," says Holten.

Ghost was the reigning national champion police dog when he died.

Holten says not a day goes by that he doesn't think about his former partner, "I miss him," says Holten.

After the death of Ghost, he had to scurry to find a new partner.

On Halloween, he found one.

"Sonic was the last of his litter," he was in a kennel in Kentucky, and his playful nature is what drew Lt. Holten to him.

"A friend of mine knew I needed a dog to replace ghost, he called me, I liked what I saw and now I have a new partner."

Sonic is now Holten's fifth police dog and he's got a lot of work ahead of him.

"When I first met Sonic, he didn't even know how to follow basic commands or have a collar, it's going to be a little while before he gets to that level," says Holten, referring to a champion dog.

To get to that level includes thousands of hours of training and good help.

"Go get him," says Holten, commanding Sonic to chase after a fellow officer.

"I'm basically a big chew toy," says Officer Ryan Leif with the Austin Police Department.

Leif has been working with Holten for over a decade and says he builds a bond with these dogs too.

"Taking bites for almost 14 years now, the dogs trust me just like the handlers, I don't train them, but I help with training," he says.

Just like Ghost, Sonic has his own destiny to fulfill.

"He's got a bright future, I wouldn't have brought him back to Austin, if I didn't think he has potential," says Holten, "the more we work together, the more trust we'll gain with one another, it's a pretty tight bond that forms there. 

And just like any partner, you never leave one behind.

"I've got five or six more years left, my grand plan is for us to retire together."

They are currently training for Sonic's regional certification on June 30th in Mankato.