Today, I wish a very happy retirement to one of Orange’s hardest working and, paws down, youngest, most handsome officers with a great head of hair.
Maximus “Max” Kosh, the beloved K9 is 9 years old and although he loves coming to work with his partner, Officer Mike Kosh, it is time for him to retire from the force.
I first met Max in 2006, when the then 18-month-old long-haired German Shepherd was introduced to the public as the first K9 in many years.
Chief Robert Gagne and Asst. Chief Edward Koether (a former K9 handler) were newly sworn in the top positions and offered the public an overview of the importance of a police dog in the ranks.
I sat down with Mike and Max on Tuesday morning to reminisce about their 7-year working partnership, and later met with Chief Gagne for his thoughts.
According to Gagne, Mike Kosh was chosen as the K9 handler for his demeanor and because he is a family man.
Max would live with the Kosh family and the fact that Mike had young children would benefit Max’s mission to not only track criminals and missing persons, but also represent the Orange Police Department in social settings, such as the Orange Country Fair and other large events where small children might climb on him or pull his tail without being nipped.
In the summer of 2006, Mike chose Max from all of the other available dogs, not for his looks (he was always singled out as the most handsome dog in any demonstration) but for his drive. As most Orange residents now know, Max’s reward for a job well done is a ball that Kosh carried in his pocket. He will do anything to get that ball. Even though Max didn’t have the social skills of some of the dogs in the academy, it was that drive that made him a great dog.
Max graduated from the academy on Dec. 21, 2006 and his first tour of duty was 4 days later on Christmas night.
As with all highly trained canines, practice was important for Max’s success in the field. His training has been constant for the past 7 years.
Mike said that was done in a variety of ways. On a slow night, Mike would ask another officer to “track” around a commercial building and then go off into a wooded area to hide. Mike would take Max out to “work the case” and they would track the “suspect” as if it were real.
He said he also would work with other local Police Departments on different scenarios and they all would keep their dogs on the top of their game.
At home, Mike would send his kids into the wood in back of their home and Max would find them.
Since Max started his career he’s responded to more calls than Mike can count both in Orange and in other towns.
Mike recalled Max’s excellent work on a Woodbridge case where an autistic boy went missing in an area surrounded by acres of woods.
“He was on the right track for about 3 miles, but local residents spotted the child near a building on a side road and he was reunited with his parents,” Mike said. “Max did his job, but it’s one of those things where you just can’t catch up to the person.”
Mike said one of the most important things for a K9 handler is to trust your dog. He and Max did several tracks together but the memorable ones were when Max found someone where (Mike) would never have imagined.
“You just let the dog do his work and he will find the person. It’s owner error that gets involved that’s frustrating,” Mike said. “When he is able to find somebody when you don’t think the person will be there… that’s the most gratifying situation.”
One example of this was when Max was tracking suspects and went up a flight of stairs leading to a deck and Mike said, “Leave it alone,” thinking that the dog was off. But Max persisted and found the two suspects hiding under the cover on a patio set on the second story deck.
As Max prepares for retirement, Mike said he will miss working with his partner.
He’s done a lot for the town of Orange and the surrounding communities. Being the first dog in a long time, he is definitely an asset to the department and the town. “It was a lot of hard work but I’m the dumb one on the leash,” Mike said. “A good dog is well rounded and know that work is work and play is play
Max is still a work in progress, he has come a long way from his first Country Fair to last years’ fair, and he made his partner proud.
After he retires from the department, Max will not become a couch potato. “He was bred to work and to have him lay around would be a disservice,” Mike said. “I’ll continue to work on his training and keep him active.”
Max’s ears perk up whenever Mike says “Want to go training?”
Mike has moved into a new position as the school resource officer.
“I like the new job, it’s a different aspect of policing. I’ve always said that the K9 was one of the best positions to have in the department with a lot of training and hard work, but in this stage of my career, I’m looking to do different things.”
At 3:30 p.m. today (April 30) Officer Kosh will hand the Chief $1 and with that transaction, Max becomes the Kosh Family pet and he is no longer the property of the town of Orange.
I’ve seen Officer Kosh in the school setting without Max and the children really respond to him. I know he will miss bringing Max with him, and Max will miss going to work. I wish both of Orange’s finest team members the best of luck in the future.
A Word From Chief Gagne
“Mike and Max made a fantastic team, I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Gagne said. “It was a goal as I was moving from Asst. Chief to Chief to bring the K9 back. My predecessor, Chief Joe Dooley and I did the work we needed to do to get it in the town budget.”
“I selected Mike because of his demeanor and his positive attitude and I saw that this was going to be a great thing for the town of Orange and the police department,” he said. “It’s important that a K9 is not overly aggressive and will do policing things and community service events. Mike and Max had that perfect balance. They could get into the nitty gritty stuff and at the same time, kids could crawl all over Max at the Country Fair. They did a fantastic job.”
“It was a great way, and they were a great team to relaunch our K9 program, and I couldn’t be prouder of the two of them.”
The one incident from the past 7 years that most stands out in Gagne’s mind is when Mike and Max were called to the Mariott Hotel for a disturbance with a large crowd inside. “One individual immediately began making his way over to a couch, and then they saw that Mike was there with Max and everybody froze.
“After investigating that incident and doing a search, a gun was recovered from under that couch,” Gagne said. “Was that individual going for the gun? Could this have turned into a tragedy? We’ll never know, but the fact that Mike and Max were there prevented that from ever happening. That one incident alone justified the whole program.”
Mike added, “He’s stopped a lot of things before they’ve happened, for example someone may run from a car, but they don’t because the dog is there. People have admitted that they would have done something until they hear the dog barking and changed their minds.”
Gagne said, “It’s hard to measure all the things he’s prevented from happening, but there have been a lot of Black Fridays (after Thanksgiving) where people are getting anxious in line, and the appearance of the police dog in the car keeps people from doing things that they shouldn’t.”
“We’ll miss Max, he’s a good dog, and always did everything we ever asked of him,” Gagne said. “They were good ambassadors for the department.”
“Mike always had a good attitude about everyone saying hello to Max before they greeted him,” Gagne said. “When you’re a K9 officer it’s all about the dog.”