For the past six years, Officer Jason Vodnik spent every shift with his K-9 companion and partner, Orry. The now 9-year-old German Shepherd dutifully perched in the rear of his squad car, ready at a moment's notice to sniff out contraband, manage crowd control or any other commands his partner might bark.
On Sept. 11, Vodnik will hang up Orry's police collar and badge, as the pooch retires from the force with a special ceremony at the City Council meeting.
Orry, known for his , is also a crowd favorite, often offering local kids a tail wag and a chance at tug of war. Orry was somewhat of a public figure, in addition to police officer. The partnership is popular throughout Oak Forest—Vodnik rarely seen without his K-9 other half.
Vodnik said he felt the urge to become a K-9 unit officer after responding to a crowd control call at the Country Club Hills movie theater. That day, he watched in awe as the K-9 unit quickly and calmly dispersed the crowd, simply by walking the length of the building.
"We come up and it's just a wall of different police cars and no one is going anywhere," Vodnik said. "So, Scott [Durano] gets Dakota out and by the time we walked the length of the building and back to his car—just walked the dog, the dog didn't bark or do anything—the parking lot is empty. I was like, 'That's pretty cool, I like that.'"
Vodnik has relished the experience of working with his loyal partner. From the original six-week training course when he began as a K-9 officer in Dyer, Ind., to the major busts the duo have scored, Vodnik said their time together has been special.
Vodnik lauded Orry for a 275-pound marijuana bust in Markham and tracking a suspect to the basement of a home. And he's not the only one. The North American Police Work Dog Association honored Orry with an outstanding service award from successful tracking an armed robber in Matteson, also helping to recover the shotgun used in the crime hidden in a bush.
"These are some of the things you've got to take your picture, that's your career photo," Vodnik said. "Once you get that, you don't ever get something like that again."
He said that each case was unique and that with each call, the team worked together to reach their goal.
To finalize Orry's retirement, Vodnik said the city council will issue a proclamation passing ownership of Orry, from the city to Vodnik. He add that the event will more than likely be the final time Orry—a crowd favorite—appears in any official capacity. Vodnik is conflicted on the ruff transition.
"It's going to be bittersweet," he said. “I've gone to work with him for six years and now, I don't know what it's going to be like without him behind me all day. It's going to be different."