BRUNSWICK — When she was a police dog, Inka was all about work.

Tall and muscular, with a deep bark, the German shepherd protected anything she considered hers, including her handler and their vehicle. On patrol, she found drug stashes. She found missing children. She once tracked a burglary suspect a mile and a half down the road — and he was in a car.

That was before retirement.

Today, 12-year-old Inka spends her days relaxing on the couch, floating away the afternoon on a fishing boat and stealing food when her humans aren’t looking.

“She is so spoiled,” Dennis Matthews, an Auburn police officer and Inka’s owner, said fondly as he ruffled her fur.

Inka was one of the Auburn Police Department’s first K-9s when she arrived in town more than a decade ago. Specially bred and trained, it was her job to sniff out criminals, find missing people and intimidate when necessary.

While Cpl. Scott Corey was Inka’s handler, she was well known by everyone in the  department — including Matthews, who used to slip her dog biscuits and bits of beef jerky so she’d like him.

“Scott kind of knew when I was doing that because she’d get a little gassy in the truck,” Matthews remembered with a laugh.

Inka’s career spanned six years. When Corey retired in 2013, Inka retired, too. But while many police dogs stay with their handlers after they leave, Corey’s family and living situation meant he couldn’t take her with him. Inka needed a new home.

Enter Matthews.

“I was really familiar with her, we got really close,” he said. “When we were in roll call and stuff, she would always come to me. So when the opportunity arose, they asked me if I’d take her. I said absolutely.”

But it wasn’t as easy as grabbing Inka’s leash and driving her home.

Auburn police dropped by Matthews’ Brunswick house to approve the kind of environment their canine co-worker would live in. Corey took Inka for visits to the home to see how she would get along with Matthews, his wife, their four boys and their own German shepherd, Abby.

And while Inka was used to children — Corey had two kids of his own — she would still be a police-dog-turned-family-pet. Matthews had to sign a form releasing Auburn from any liability should Inka become aggressive.

“I was like, what am I getting myself into?” Matthews said.

He didn’t turn back. Inka, it turned out, was as gentle a pet as their other dog.

“She’s adorable,” said Kolby Matthews, 15. 

Inka’s new life has taken some adjustment, for both canine and humans.

In the beginning, Inka wanted to leave with Matthews whenever she saw him put on his uniform for work. She still sits by the door or lays by his side of the bed, waiting for him to come home.

As a K-9, Inka disliked other dogs and cats. But within a couple of weeks of her arrival, she and Abby started playing together. She doesn’t bother the family cat.

“She’s kind of chilled out,” Matthews said.

Because Inka is territorial in the car — a holdover from her police dog days — the family quickly realized they couldn’t take her through a drive thru.

“We had just bought a brand new car. I mean, brand new that day. She came with us. It was a van and we tried to go through a drive thru,” Matthews said. “She ended up breaking a cup holder, scratching the dash and trying to go through the passenger’s window at the people at the drive thru. Spilled coffee everywhere. . . so we learned not to go through the drive thru.”

Generally, though, Inka’s life is like that of any well-loved dog. She spends summer days on a boat when Matthews goes fishing or relaxes in her own inflatable pool out in the yard.  In the winter she rolls around in the snow or tries to catch the snowballs the boys throw for her.

Inka and Abby have their own couch in the living room. Inka gets her favorite red ball any time she wants, not just when she’s sniffed out a suspect, as was the rule during her K-9 days. She loves it when the boys bring her driftwood to play with.

She gets table scraps sometimes and the occasional hot dog or pork chop. Recently, she stole half a cooked steak when the Matthews’ oldest son left his plate unattended for a moment during a barbecue celebration. She dropped it when ordered — an obedient K-9 still — but the damage had been done.

“She ended up with it one way or the other,” Matthews said.

Because Inka spent her whole life training and following commands, Matthews works to keep her basic skills sharp. Out in the yard they practice heeling, sitting, staying. She follows through perfectly, though she often refuses to drop her beloved red ball, the one that was once her reward for a job well done.

“Now it’s just her property,” Matthews said. “She doesn’t have to do anything to get it except chase after it.”

Inka sometimes visits the Auburn Police Department, where she’s welcomed like a returning hero.

“She kind of has a special place there. We (recently) went up and saw the deputy chief and he gave her treats. That’s a typical thing,” Matthews said. “So she gets spoiled there, too.”

At 12, Inka’s eyesight is a little dimmer, her balance a little unsteady. She has some hip problems, possibly exacerbated by injuries when she was hit by a car as a K-9. But mostly, Matthews said, she’s healthy. And happy.

“She’s part of the family,” he said.

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected]

Dennis Matthews pets Inka, his retired K-9 police dog, at his home in Brunswick. Inka hangs onto her red ball, which has been reserved as a reward when she was working, but now, in retirement, is hers to use as she wishes. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Inka, a retired Auburn police dog, runs in her backyard in Brunswick recently. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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