Community support makes K-9 program possible

BonO joins Jackson County Sheriff’s Office

“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been amazed at K-9 and police working relationships,” says Jackson County Deputy Melissa Schmidt. Schmidt grew up in Clinton, and recalls officer Jim Pfeiffer and his K-9 Major, who had a memorable pair of gold canine teeth, saving three lives and successfully tracking missing people. “I think it’s such a unique opportunity for law enforcement to serve communities,” she says. 

Schmidt, who is the first female deputy for the county, is spending the month of October in training with her new partner, a Belgian Malinois named BonO. Mentors like Pfeiffer and other K-9 officers are checking in and offering their guidance.

When the county’s previous K-9 retired and his handler changed jobs, Sheriff Brent Kilburg knew it was up to his office to lead the way in ensuring Jackson County has access to the unique advantages the K-9 program offers. 

“I understand it is an enormous responsibility and am happy the sheriff has given me the opportunity – it’s a huge honor,” says Schmidt, who breeds and raises greyhounds in her free time. Her law enforcement career includes 13 years as an officer in Bellevue, Sabula and Preston, where she was police chief. She also spent 13 years teaching at alternative high schools in Clinton and Goose Lake, and is a graduate of Northeast Iowa Community College’s paramedic program. 

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department leverages a K-9 fund with the Community Foundation of Jackson County to collect charitable gifts that provide 100% of the support needed to provide K-9 service. Residents and businesses donated more than $15,000 to the fund at the Community Foundation, which was used to purchase BonO and pay for Schmidt and BonO’s initial schooling, veterinary care and monthly training as well as annual recertification to keep their skills sharp. 

“I want the community to know how appreciative we are of their generosity toward the program,” says Kilburg. “Without their support, we likely wouldn’t be able to do this. I appreciate their good faith, trust and willingness to dig into their own pockets to help us out and ensure we can serve them in this capacity.”

After the first days of training, Schmidt was impressed with 11-month-old BonO’s skill in locating narcotics and his intense attention to her commands and body language at all times. “Having the resource to be able to find someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia who walked off, or a lost child, is so good for our community,” says Schmidt. “I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far in BonO.”

To learn more about how the Community Foundation can support your project or charitable interests, contact Lori Loch, executive director, at or 563-588-2700.