Half a century later, King is still royalty.
Memories of King, Anoka’s trailblazing local hero German shepherd police dog, are brought back to life in the new book “A Dog Named King: The True Story of an American Police Dog,” written by handler and former Anoka Police Chief Andrew Revering.
With a helpful push from Revering, King became the first police dog used effectively in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area in the 1960s. The pair paved a path for and consulted on the introduction of police dogs throughout the five-state area.
Tales of King’s achievements live on locally and beyond, with the naming of King Memorial Park and a life-size statue to commemorate him in Anoka, as well as an honor in the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2018.
His service with Anoka ran from 1967 to 1973.
“He had a real good temperament to be a police dog,” Revering said. “He wasn’t apprehensive. Around children or other people he was friendly as can be. Just a friendly dog.”
A few attempts were made in the late 1950s and early ‘60s to utilize police dogs in the state. But without the necessary backing and commitment, none succeeded.
Revering, who at the time was just finishing his service in the Air Force, was about ready to help change that.
“I was a dog handler in the Air Force,” Revering said. “When I got out of the Air Force, I wanted to work at a police department that had dogs, and in Minnesota since I was from there. I wrote the Minneapolis and St. Paul departments; I thought, ‘They must have dogs!’ But they wrote back they didn’t have dogs, so I took a map and wrote to all of the suburban chiefs to see if anyone had one. Anoka’s chief said, ‘We don’t have dogs either, but we’re testing it out if you’re interested.’ I thought, well, I might need a job first.”
It turned out to be perfect timing.
Revering tested at the top of training to earn a job with the Anoka Police Department. History was in store.
A little while after, a captain within the force who knew of Revering’s background working with service dogs came to Revering about a dog training program. In 1967, enough money was raised to send Revering and a Coon Rapids officer to the National Police Dog Academy in Moline, Kansas, for training. They came back home with two German shepherds, one of which was King, Anoka’s historic K-9.
“Right off the bat we took to the dogs,” Revering said. “The dog was very effective at finding guys in buildings, tracking and tracing. Every time he captured somebody, a local reporter would write about the dog catching people. Once in a while he was in the Minneapolis paper.”
Tales of King’s success wasn’t contained to Anoka for long. Soon after, Revering was helping several other departments train their first police dog classes in the early 1970s.
“Eventually what was happening was I was getting requests from Minnesota and outside Minnesota in surrounding states to advise them and help them get started in dog programs – we helped police departments in five states get started.”
The training for K-9s has held mostly steady from those early days, with the earlier emphasis more on tracking and protection. One of the most important factors for success remains not just a well-trained dog, but an experienced handler, helping navigate situations that require strict obedience, tracking and agility.
“These police dogs are highly-trained and well-trained,” Revering said. “The dogs don’t make mistakes, the handlers make mistakes. If a person is accidentally bitten by a police dog, it’s the handler who somehow messed it up. The dogs do what they’re trained to do.”
In 1998, Revering retired after 33 years with the Anoka Police Department, the final 14 as chief.
Two years later, a bill authorizing the establishment of the National Law Enforcement Museum was passed.
In the search for exhibits, the museum reached out to police agencies in search of artifacts and those to honor. That led to the pursuit of information on King, including badges and newspaper articles about his exploits.
In 2018, the museum finally opened. Leading to the idea of Revering’s book.
Filled with many more stories to share, and the help of his daughter editing, “A Dog Named King” came to life.
“I sent all of that stuff and then forgot about it,” Revering said. “Years later they finally built the place. When it had its grand opening they had a display, and when I got word he’d be featured, I went out there. When I found out what they did in there about my old dog, I figured I’ve gotta write a book about this guy.
“It was harder work than I thought. It took me almost two and a half years. ... It was fun to write. It’s a lot about the dog and a biography of myself including the dog.”
King’s impact remains to this day. News of the book has led many to recall memories of King, including those who were just elementary students at the time remembering when he was brought by school.
“If you grew up in Anoka, you probably knew King,” Revering said.
Revering’s tenure spanned three and a half decades and took the state and Midwest into a new era of K-9 service. He had many colleagues along the way.
But only one King.
“He just knew who the good guys and bad guys were,” Revering said. “He’s the best partner I ever had.”