POWHATAN –The Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office has a new team patrolling the streets, and they are both thrilled to be there.
Deputy Kaitlyn Crane and her new K-9 partner Argie started their first shift working together in Powhatan on Christmas Day 2019. A week later, after Crane had recovered from an unexpected bout of flu, they clocked their second official day on duty as partners on New Year’s Eve.
Despite the brief setback, Crane said the first days on the job as a K-9 handler have been good, although it has required some adjustment for her 1 ½-year-old Belgian Malinois partner. Argie loved the excitement and constant activity of training, so he is adjusting to the slower pace of being on patrol for 12-hour shifts.
“Every now and then he gets an attitude and barks at me and doesn’t stop,” Crane said. “Every time with training we would get in the car and do training. Now it is not as fast paced for him so it is going to take some getting used to.”
Argie is the sheriff’s office’s newest addition to its K-9 program, filling the shoes left empty when Sgt. Mike Boggs’ partner, Jake, retired in 2019, and the deputy decided not to take on another dog.
Crane, who has been a Powhatan deputy since fall 2015, said she had wanted to be a K-9 handler for awhile and was ecstatic to be chosen for the new role. The road to get to this point wasn’t either for her or Argie, making her value it even more.
Crane, 31, is a Powhatan native who knew from an early age that she wanted to work in law enforcement. As a child, she had a deputy who lived in her neighborhood whom she greatly admired.
“Any time I saw him I would ask for his autograph. Back then I think cops were more respected,” she said. “I grew up here and I always felt safe here. I guess I just wanted to be part of the reason other people felt that way about Powhatan.”
Crane said she knew Powhatan was where she wanted to end her career, but she was willing to start somewhere else to get the experience she needed to make it back home.
When she was 21, she was taking some community college courses but hadn’t yet drilled down on seriously pursuing a career in law enforcement. But all of her plans were put on hold when she was in a sledding accident on a hill in Powhatan that saw her breaking her back. The injury was severe but because of the holiday season And short staffing, Crane had to lay motionless in the hospital for seven days before she underwent surgery. She still remembers the fear of moving even slightly and possibly causing further damage.
“I have rods and screws in my back. I am fused from my T11 to my L1 in my spine. I never lost feeling in my legs,” she said.
After surgery, Crane said her surgeon advised her she didn’t need physical therapy, and “being 21, I was OK with that.” But she developed pain issues that led her to seek out her own treatments. She began undergoing treatment at a physical therapist, which sparked her interest in the field. She got hired at Tidewater Physical Therapy in Powhatan, which has since become Pivot Physical Therapy, as a physical therapist technician. But even then, she said she always knew it was going to be a pit stop and not her long-term goal.
“When I started at Tidewater, I remember telling them in my interview that was not my long-term goal. I wanted to get into law enforcement, you just don’t go and get hired,” she said.
The short-term stint with the practice ended up lasting four and a half years because she said she was happy there and loved the job, her former boss, and the other employees. But she hadn’t given up on her dream of working in law enforcement, and eventually began applying again.
When the opportunity to start her law enforcement career in Powhatan came up, Crane said she was thrilled since it was where she most wanted to be. She was hired in 2015 to work the night patrol shift, which she continued to do until the K-9 handler position opened up. She already loved dogs, and she was partly inspired because of working with Cpl. Quinn Pasi and his K-9 partner, Sgt. Bane, Crane said.
“Just seeing his relationship with Bane and knowing how important the dogs are in the work they can do not only for the department but the community, it was something I wanted to be a part of,” she said.
Sheriff Brad Nunnally said the office’s K-9 program is expensive to maintain but is well worth it because of the services the dogs provide to the county, whether it is narcotics detection or finding a missing person.
Nunnally said he has known Crane since she was a teenager, taught her how to shoot, saw her come back from a broken back, and has always been impressed with her. She first volunteered and then worked as a softball coach for Powhatan High School for several years.
“Kaitlyn is a very good community officer. She has been a softball coach. She is very close to a lot of the youth in the county, very respected and a darn good deputy. I think a lot of her as an officer,” he said.
When Crane began the 12-week K-9 handler course in September 2019, she was initially paired with a chocolate Labrador named Donut that came from the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter. It turned out the loveable Donut made a better pet than a police dog, and he eventually was adopted by a Chesterfield police officer.
So a few weeks into training, Crane was assigned a new dog named Sig, who was one of two dogs picked up at an animal shelter in Maryland. The Belgian Malinois was an owner surrender who was severely underweight. It was decided if Crane and Sig could develop a bond, the Richmond Police Department would donate the dog to Powhatan. Fortunately, they did hit it off.
But right after the pairing, Crane was struck a blow when her mother, Cathie Argenbright Crane of Powhatan, was admitted to the hospital for COPD, congestive heart failure, and fluid buildup. Crane said her mother “went downhill quick,” and they realized she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital.
With the support of the course trainers and the sheriff’s office administration, Crane was able to take time to spend with her mother before she passed away on Oct. 11.
“She was the biggest fan of her kids. All three of us, she was definitely our biggest fan and extremely proud of us,” Crane said of her mother.
Crane took another week after her mother passed away to grieve but was still able to return to the same training program. She said she was fortunate that other handlers in the program helped by running Sig through training exercises during that time, and she added extra drills on to help make up for lost time.
Then there was the issue of the dog’s name. Crane said she always knew she was going to change his name because Sig sounded too much like “sit.”
“I was thinking of a new name for him. It was before mom passed but she was basically in a coma and unable to speak with us the last two days. I didn’t get a chance to ask her, but I asked her sister if it was ok to name the dog Argie in honor of my mom and her family,” she said. “Argie is what we called our grandparents – Grandma and Grandpa Argie. We shortened it. My aunt thought it would be a really beautiful tribute to my mom.”
At first Argie was hard-headed, but Crane said that was likely because he lacked stability initially – going from whatever his situation was before to an animal shelter and then being bounced back and forth when she had to be at the hospital and he was being watched by the trainers.
“Once he had a steady home with me and he understood we are going to training every single day, he started working and getting rewarded, his personality started coming out. He really is a sweet and fun-loving dog,” she said.
Argie comes to the sheriff’s office as a narcotics detection dog, unlike Bane, who also does apprehension and tracking, Crane said. Drugs are an ongoing issue in every jurisdiction across the Commonwealth, so having trained K-9 officers like Argie and Bane is an excellent tool to help find them in Powhatan and “prevent them from getting into the hands of somebody else.”
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.