Pocatello police Cpl. Akilah Lacey and his K9, Bart. Bart recently unexpectedly died while on duty.

POCATELLO — Lively, alert and intelligent — the inherent attributes of a Dutch Shepherd — are exactly what made Pocatello Police K-9 Bart one of the state’s top cop dogs.

But it was his determined yet goofy nature that Bart’s handler and partner, Pocatello police Cpl. Akilah Lacey will miss the most. After more than five years with the department, Bart unexpectedly died on Nov. 29 while on duty.

“My family and I really miss him,” Lacey said. “I’m sad, man. Devastated is saying it lightly.”

Born in Holland on Aug. 29, 2012, Bart joined the Pocatello Police Department on Feb. 22, 2015, said Lacey, adding that he obtained Bart from Ketchum Kennels in Coeur d’Alene.

While on duty, Bart had a relentless drive as one of the region’s best patrol canines. He was responsible for several large-scale drug seizures throughout his career, helped arrest numerous suspects and his presence alone prevented many other suspects from fleeing, Lacey said.

“His primary function was narcotics, but he was also very effective at apprehending suspects,” Lacey said. “I can remember two times where he apprehended violent suspects on the loose. Bart sniffed them out and barked where to lead us to because he could not get to them. One suspect had barricaded himself under the stairs of a vacant house and the other was hiding up in a concrete foundation. Bart was jumping up and down, barking like crazy and we found the guy hiding under drywall.”

Lacey added, “The number of times people gave up just because Bart was there are too many to count. His presence was enough to keep the situation safer for everyone.”

Bart was often utilized in K-9 demonstrations and was rated as the third best patrol dog in Idaho during 2018. Bart was quite adaptable, too. He was intimidating to potential suspects yet timid in the presence of youth and small children, Lacey said.

“He did so many demonstrations and thrived in front of big crowds,” Lacey said. “He was calm enough to go into the schools and work with young children, too.”

Being a Dutch Shepherd, Bart was a large dog breed, but his personality was much larger than his physical stature. Even in serious scenarios, Bart’s goofiness had a way of coming to light.

“Narcotics K-9s are trained to go to the source of the odor,” Lacey said. “During one traffic stop, Bart had already indicated on the outside of the car that there were drugs in it. So I opened the door to let him find the source and the drugs were hidden in a coin slot by the steering wheel. Bart attempted to press his nose on the source and sit like he’s trained, but as he did that he put his head through the hole in the steering wheel and pressed his nose on the coin slot. Every time he did that, his body would honk the horn. He did it like five times trying to get the slot. He finally figured out another way, sat down and was rewarded. It was a funny enough situation that everyone on scene was cracking up, including the suspect.”

It wasn’t often that Bart’s goofball nature showed up at work, but at Lacey’s home, it was a common occurrence, he said.

“He would bring you a toy every few minutes if you gave him any kind of inclination you were interested in playing with him,” Lacey said. “If he decided he wanted to be petted like a friend he would physically grab your hand with his mouth to make you pet him. He especially did that with my mother-in-law. He would play as long as you would let him. I think he loved me a lot, but a dog toy would trump me any day.”

Lacey says he has plans to cremate Bart and keep his ashes but is not holding a funeral. He intends to plant a tree on his property in remembrance of Bart, but is unsure if he will obtain another K-9 partner moving forward.

Pocatello Police Chief Roger Schei said the department has plans to create a memorial inside, as well as one outside of the police department to memorialize its past K-9s. Additionally, Bart will become the first Idaho K-9 memorialized at the Idaho Peace Officers Memorial in Meridian in May.

“We lost a dear member of our team and Pocatello Police Department family with Bart’s passing,” Schei said. “Bart can never be replaced. The teamwork between Bart and Akilah was incredible and we will have to evaluate where we go in the future.”

Bart had accompanied Lacey for more than half of his nearly 11 years with the Pocatello Police Department. From the moment he seriously considered becoming a police officer, Lacey knew he wanted to be a K-9 handler, he said.

“I feel lost now,” Lacey said. “He was my identity at work, but really everything to me. I’m struggling, but the support of my friends, family and community has been amazing. Bart definitely touched a lot of people in his short career. He will be gravely missed.”