Storied Fruita police dog Anno dies at 13

Special to the Sentinel—The Fruita Police Department’s German shepherd Anno is shown during a training exercise. The dog was a quick learner, said retired officer Mitch Caldwell, Anno’s longtime handler.

Anno lived a life of notable firsts.

He was likely the first police-trained dog to grab headlines on the streets of Denver for reasons unrelated to law enforcement work.

On his first day on the job at the Fruita Police Department in 2001, the German shepherd made less than a stellar impression on the boss.

“(Chief Mark) Angelo said he wanted him to be in the building, unless he starts using my office as a bathroom,” said retired Fruita police officer Mitch Caldwell, 43, Anno’s partner and longtime handler. “Of course, the first day we had him, he used the bathroom in the office.” Angelo discovered the office surprise, Caldwell recalled.

Anno had free rein to roam the hallways of the Police Department, frequently getting inside the building first before Caldwell in order to sneak a snack from the animal control officer.

Anno died last Tuesday, the result of a rapid decline with the dog’s failing back and hips. He was 13.

“I keep looking around the house expecting to see him,” Caldwell said Thursday. “We pretty much were not separated for 12 years. When I went out of town, he went with me.”

Purchased for $2,000, Caldwell said he shortened the dog’s original name: Sir Anno Von Barkenhaus.

“He learned real fast ... certified to do drug detection in three weeks and took another three months to learn building searches, tracking and handler protection,” Caldwell said.

Anno had a distinctive, high-pitched squeal as opposed to a low growl, he said.

“It stayed with him his whole career,” Caldwell said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, when someone was hiding in a building, they’d come out after hearing that.”

Caldwell’s early years with the dog included a publicized misadventure away from the job. While Caldwell was visiting his grandmother in Denver in 2002, Anno hopped a fence and strolled downtown.

“I ended up calling the Denver Police Department, and they basically said you should have kept better track of your dog,” Caldwell said.

Animal-control officers eventually found Anno, roughly four blocks away from the home. The police dog’s wayward ramble made the day’s news with a Denver television station.

Anno, after his retirement in 2009, continued to represent Fruita police in special events and demonstrations for children.

“He was my partner, not just a dog,” Caldwell said.


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