Oakley, Hubbard County’s K9 officer, retired after receiving recognition at Tuesday’s county board meeting. He appeared with his handler, Sergeant Dan Kruchowski.

Later that afternoon, the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office reported Oakley’s passing “with great sadness.”

Sheriff Cory Aukes said that, on the K9’s last day, “As he was enthusiastically jumping into the vehicle, he ruptured his spleen. The veterinarian then discovered a tumor growing on his spleen as well. The decision was made at that time to put our partner Oakley down. Oct. 6, 2020 was a sad day for the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office and the Kruchowski family that he lived with for the past nine years. Oakley, you will be missed.”

At the board meeting, Kruchowski mentioned that Oakley, almost 12, was injured that morning.

“This is the not-fun part of being a K9 handler, when they start to become old,” he said.

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Aukes told county commissioners, “Oakley is a little special to me. He was our first dog that we had since I got elected.”

The sheriff’s office hired Kruchowski in 2011. “We were lucky enough to get Dan, a seasoned and trained and experienced K9 handler, from the police department. After that, it was time to find a dog,” Aukes recalled.

A Belgian Malinois named Oakley – two years old at the time – quickly became the department’s primary choice. He was purchased from a Minnesota breeder.

Aukes says Oakley “was nothing short of impressive” during his nine-year career.

“Over the next years, Oakley and Dan have accumulated more statistics and accomplishments than all of our four previous K9s put together, and that says a lot. It really does. It was fun watching them work,” he said.

They competed at the 2011 United States Police Canine Association national trials, winning 13th in the nation. They were also members of team that received top honors. Another highlight was earning a gold medal at the Can Am Games for narcotics.

“Their countless assistance to our neighboring agencies brought much praise and many thank yous from our area sheriffs,” Aukes said.

Oakley helped locate two pounds of heroin during a traffic stop, he continued. Another stop led to the seizure of one pound of meth.

“These are things that people don’t realize just how valuable a K9 really is to an agency,” Aukes said. “The one thing Dan never had to do was ask Oakley twice to get out of the back of that squad. He kept Dan safe all these years. Like I say, just an invaluable tool. I can’t say enough praise for that dog.”

Kruchowski thanked Aukes and Chief Deputy Scott Parks for the K9 assignment. “It’s something that I’ll never forget,” he said.

The K9 team received a certificate and applause before departing.

“C’mon, buddy,” Kruchowski said. They headed to the veterinarian shortly after, where they received the diagnosis about the spleen and tumor.

Kruchowski and Oakley pause for a photo with a certificate of appreciation. Oakley passed away later that afternoon.
Kruchowski and Oakley pause for a photo with a certificate of appreciation. Oakley passed away later that afternoon.(Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

In a Facebook tribute, Aukes wrote, “Whether it was tracking a suspect or sniffing out narcotics, he made us proud each and every day. ... But if the truth was known, Oakley found it more rewarding when he apprehended a fleeing felon, or found a lost child in the woods, or was able to protect his handler.”