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Wilson heralded for efforts to save K-9

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After Baxter’s K-9 Gator suffered a critical medical emergency, Crow Wing County Deputy Ian Wilson carried the dog through difficult terrain to reach help.

Wilson continued on after other helpers, who also carried the stricken Belgian Malinois through an extensive swamp, were exhausted.

Gator and his handler Baxter Police Officer Matt Maier were on hand at the Crow Wing County Board meeting Tuesday as Wilson was recognized for his heroic efforts to save Gator.

Baxter Chief Jim Exsted said it’s been almost two years since Gator suffered a major medical event, perhaps a seizure, during a suspect pursuit. The dog was in distress, needed immediate medical attention and nearly died. It could have been catastrophic, Exsted said.

“Were it not for the assistance of several officers, one of which was Deputy Ian Wilson, Gator most likely would not have survived,” Exsted stated in written comments to the board. “We continue to be very grateful. ... Due to the heroic efforts of the officers that day Gator has continued to serve our area in a very positive fashion.”

Exsted presented Wilson with a plaque at the board session.

Wilson received a standing ovation.

Gator and Maier were assisting the Brainerd Police Department in a suspect pursuit east of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport in an extensive swamp area. Gator was tracking the suspect deep into the tough terrain when he was stricken. The officers who helped were thanked at the time, but Exsted said Gator’s work since that time confirmed how important the physical struggle was to get the dog to medical attention. Gator was carried nearly three-quarters of a mile. Four officers assisted in getting him out. In addition to Wilson, Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Karl Hadrits, Brainerd Police Officer Tim Friis and Maier carried Gator.

Since that day Gator has been involved in nine additional apprehensions and found 15 people by tracking them, with eight of those physical apprehensions. Gator assisted in 38 felony arrests. One of those was finding an attempted murder suspect in Brainerd, a couple burglaries, suspects who crashed and fled in Baxter.

“None of that would have happened if it would not have been for the actions of offices that day,” Exsted said. “All of those efforts saved Gator that day.”

The plaque recognized Wilson for his swift action, endurance and selfless effort to help Gator on June 1, 2012.

On behalf of the city of Baxter, Exsted extended his thanks to Wilson. Gator is nearing the end of his service duty years. Exsted said he didn’t know how long the dog will continue or if the city will get another K-9. Exsted said he’s always been a K-9 fan and much of that is due to the work of the team of handler and dog.

“It’s been just a pleasure working with him allowing him to serve,” Exsted said of Gator.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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