Columbus Police Department’s newest canine Max is about to be assigned a new human partner.

The police dog, who distinguished himself on his first day on the job in May 2014 by finding crystal meth hidden in a cigarette case in a car, has been working with Officer John Searle.

Searle has resigned from the police department to return to his hometown in Ohio but will leave Max with an as-yet-unnamed department officer who will be the new handler, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus police spokesman.

Max is a young dog and can make the adjustment to a new handler, Harris said. However, there will be a training period involved as the two adjust to the new partnership, he said.

The dog is special to the department because he was obtained through the efforts of Dylan Prather, who took on the fundraising project to raise money to supply a dog to the police department as his senior project for Columbus North High School.

By spring 2014, Prather had raised more than $15,000 to purchase, train and provide ongoing care for Max, with donations coming from individuals, businesses and the Custer Foundation, in memory of animal lover Susan Jane Weaver McGlothlin.

Prather now works as a dispatcher in the Emergency 911 center in Columbus, and is continuing his studies at IUPUC.

He had actually hoped that Max might go with Searle because he said the two had formed such a close bond and working relationship.

“As much as John and Max worked together, it’s hard to watch them be separated,” he said.

But he also said that Max is young and will adjust to a new partner. Prather hopes to get to know the officer who becomes Max’s new handler so he can follow along with the dog’s training and work accomplishments.

“Max is proving himself to the community,” Prather said. “He’s getting the bad guys off the street and getting drugs off the street — that’s the goal.”

Prather is working toward his own goal of becoming a police officer and plans to attend the police academy in 2017, in preparation to becoming a police officer on the IUPUC campus.

He also is working at Jewell-Rittman Funeral Home and plans to enter IUPUC’s law enforcement cadet program.

One of the long-range dreams is to follow in Searle’s footsteps to become a K-9 handler for a police department, he said.

A new partner for Max isn’t the only change coming for the department’s K-9 units.

K-9 Rex, who is partnered with Officer Chad Lehman, is on the soon-to-retire list, Harris said. Rex began serving the department in 2008 and is 10 years old, Harris said.

The department is preparing to find a replacement for Rex as he retires, Harris said. The new dog will join Max and his new handler, and Argo, whose handler is Columbus Police Officer Branch Schrader.

What police canines do

Uses of police dogs

• Narcotics investigation

• Tracking

• Suspect apprehension

• Article search and recovery

• Handler protection

• Searches for missing and endangered persons

• Public relations

• SWAT team assistance

Source: Columbus Police Department

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.