Missing police dog returns home after 61 days

K-9 Karson returns home

This story is courtesy of our sister station WDTN in Dayton, OH.

WILMINGTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The search for the missing police dog from Wilmington has come to an end.

A radio call from Wilmington Police Sgt. Ron Fithen to dispatch signaled the end to two months of searching.

“Being there at the moment when I met eyes with Karson knowing he was coming home today, that has made my year,” said Fithen.

After 61 days, thousands of sightings, and countless hours of searching, Karson is home.

An off-chance sighting by a couple driving northbound along I-71 in Clinton County on Sunday afternoon is what ended the long search.

“We spotted an animal to our right,” said Pam Jones. “We thought maybe it was a fox. But then I went, ‘Rick, that’s Karson.’ He looked at me and he goes, ‘I think so, too.’”

Jones and her husband Rick said they have been helping in the search for Karson since December 26.

They joined more than 23,000 others who joined K9 Karson’s Facebook page actively looking for the dog. Karson has been missing ever since he was able to escape from the Clinton Animal Care Clinic in Wilmington.

His handler, Officer Jerry Popp, was in vacation in Virginia at the time.

“The people out here are wonderful,” said Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand. “The support we get from our community is phenomenal.”

Karson was found in a field in northeastern Clinton County along Sabina and Starbuck Roads.

A plan, in place two weeks since his disappearance, went into effect which rushed Karson to Country View Pet Hospital in Clinton County.

Despite some red between his paws and mild dehydration, the hospital said it is amazing how well 3-year-old Karson is doing.

“What we do have proof of is that at some point encountered a skunk,” said Jill Thompson with the Country View Pet Hospital. “He was bathed today and we did note that. It’s really amazing what he’s been through and how great he looks.”

Chief Weyand said Karson will have to undergo some training before he can return to the force. There is no timetable set for when that will be.

For now, Popp and Karson are spending some time together at home for the first time since before Christmas.

Karson is expected to return to a community ready to welcome him home.

“Karson ended up being our dog,” said Jones. “I think that’s how everybody felt. Karson wasn’t just Officer Popp’s dog anymore. Karson was all of our dog. We took it all upon ourselves to find our dog.”

The Wilmington Police Department is planning a party to welcome Karson home later in the week.

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