Friday, November 21, 2008

Dog mauls top deputy

By Mark LaFlamme , Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008
AUBURN - Androscoggin County Chief Deputy Mike Ward was expected to be off the job at least another two weeks recovering from injuries he suffered when he was attacked by a police dog in mid-October.

Ward, hired as the county's No. 2 cop in July, has been out with injuries to his hand, arm, leg and face suffered when the dog he was caring for attacked him at his home.

"He was bitten pretty badly," said Sheriff Guy Desjardins. "I would almost call it a mauling."

The dog that bit Ward, a German shepherd named Dokken, was taken by Maine State Police after the attack. The dog was between training sessions.

In early autumn, the Sheriff's Department was mulling what to do with the dog as they prepared to take it to canine training school for possible certification.

"We were in the process of getting another handler for the dog," Desjardins said. "Mike has raised shepherds all his life and he took it home where he would keep it in his kennel."

The arrangement was fine for a few weeks. Then on Oct. 24, Ward had some guests over to his home in Oxford. Everything seemed normal until late in the evening when Dokken became hostile.

"For some reason, the dog started acting funny; he was growling a bit," Desjardins said. "Mike thought maybe the dog just needed to go outside. He got up to do it and at that point, the dog just attacked. It was brutal."

Ward suffered several wounds when the dog lunged. His hand was ripped open and he was bitten on the face, leg and buttocks as he tried to fight off the animal.

Ward and his house guests rushed outside, leaving the shepherd locked in the house. Shortly after, Androscoggin Sheriff's Office dog handler Brian Smith and a State Police trooper arrived to get the dog out of the building.

"The dog was all calmed down," Desjardins said. "He was wagging his tail and everything."

The sheriff did not know what caused Dokken to attack. State Police had been observing the dog since the attack; its fate was not known.

According to the sheriff, Ward suffered an infection in one of the bites, which has delayed his recovery. He has been out on workers compensation since the attack.

Ward was hired as chief deputy when Desjardins was forced to demote Eric Samson, the officer the sheriff had chosen for the position, after a dispute with county commissioners over Samson's salary.

Desjardins expects Ward to be back on the job once his wounds have healed.

"I really hope he'll be back within a week or two," Desjardins said.

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