Dasty recovers from blastomycosis
MPD holds K9 benefit to pay for treatment


K9 Handler Officer Josh McCaskill and K9 Officer Dasty. Submitted photo.

Dasty (pronounced Dah-stee), the Merrill Police Department’s (MPD) K9 Officer joined the Department last November after the MPD’s first K9 Officer, Eros, retired in Sept. 2022 after serving eight years. Officer Josh McCaskill is Dasty’s partner and handler.
Unfortunately, less than four months after starting on duty, Dasty became severely ill and was diagnosed with blastomycosis (blasto), requiring hospitalization, expensive medical care, and ongoing treatment. Those expenses aren’t in the MPD’s budget, so now the MPD is holding a K9 benefit to help pay for all the expenses associated with Dasty’s illness and treatment.

Dasty is diagnosed with blasto
“On March 2, 2023, K9 Officer Dasty was taken to Rockwood Vet in Merrill by Officer McCaskill,” said MPD Officer Ben Hintze who is helping with the benefit. “Ultimately, Dasty was diagnosed with blastmycosis … resulting in him being taken to Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in the Fox Valley for emergency treatment.”
“Blasto is a fungus that is found in the environment, usually in moist areas with decaying leaves and wood,” he said. “Once the fungus spores are inhaled, the spores commonly settle in the lungs and airways to the lungs, which can cause severe respiratory issues.”
“Dasty had a very hard time breathing while fighting the infection and had a respiratory rate of 115 breaths per minute for a significant time while being treated. Days passed as Dasty continued to fight and was at risk of losing vision in his right eye and even death,” Hintze said. “Staff at the police department missed our fellow officer, and hoped for a miracle.”
“During those passing days, with the aid of medical staff and medication, Dasty miraculously improved,” he said. “On March 9, Officer McCaskill and Dasty were given the good news that his lungs had improved enough to go home.”
Since returning home, Dasty has continually improved, with short training sessions, and was anxious to get back to work. “However, Dasty must continue his treatment for some time, to fight any blasto that might still be active within him, and to prevent the respiratory issues from returning,” Hintze said.
“On March 23, Dasty was cleared to return to full duty,” he said. “Since then he has been utilized to assist with search warrants and other street deployments.”

Merrill Police Department’s K9 Officer Dasty recovers from blasto. Submitted photo.

Merrill’s second K9 Officer
“A 1 ½-year-old German Shepherd. Dasty was originally raised by a civilian family in Germany,” Hintze said. “Dasty was hand chosen by Steinig Tal Kennel in Camblesport, Wis. to become a potential Police K9 in the United States.”
“In July, 2022, the MPD’s K9 handler Josh McCaskill and his son personally picked Dasty from Steinig Tal Kennel.”
But Dasty is not a typical pet, he stressed. “He is the City of Merrill’s K9 Officer, helping to keep all of us safe.”
“Dasty is very important to the City of Merrill, as he is called upon to handle a wide variety of incidents–tasks that a human officer can simply not do as well as a K9 officer,” Hintze said. “Dasty is trained in drug detection, suspect apprehension, article searches, tracking, and handler protection. These tasks may include Dasty aiding in the apprehension of a dangerous criminal, drug sniffing, or tracking of a person who has become lost or missing. By the MPD having Dasty always readily available, he continually makes our community and city a much safer place to live.”

K9 costs
“Having a police department K9 does not come cheap, however,” Hintze said. “Many of these dogs and their handlers need to be highly trained. As a community we are fortunate to have the Bierman Foundation that generously donated the funds to purchase Dasty, along with all the training and equipment needed for the program.”
“Officer McCaskill, Dasty’s handler is a 12-year veteran with the MPD. He, along with Dasty, went through a four-week training course at Steinig Tal, once Dasty had been brought to the United States. Officer McCaskill has a background with Police department K9’s, as he was very active with helping K9 handler Lt. Drabek (with Eros).”
The costs of Dasty’s emergency visit, hospitalization, and treatment were unexpected expenses, however.
“The costs that were incurred with Dasty’s hospital stay and continued treatment will be a substantial expense,” Hintze said. “We are asking for your help, to support our K9 Dasty so that he can continue to help keep our community safe.”

K9 Fund Benefit
“In an effort to help defray some costs, the MPD will be teaming up with the Sawmill Brewing Company for a K9 benefit,” he said.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, a late afternoon/early evening K9 Fund Benefit will be held at the Sawmill Brewing Company, 1110 E. 10th St. in Merrill. Live music will be provided by MPD’s very own Detective Matt Waid. Officer McCaskill and K9 Dasty will be there for a meet and greet. And MPD Officer John Stubbe will be available to answer law enforcement related questions or for kids interested in seeing the squad car and some of the tools used while on duty, Hintze said.
A food truck will be on site serving pulled pork, Reuben sandwiches, brats, nachos, and more beginning at 4:30 p.m., with all proceeds being donated to the MPD K9 Fund.
The Sawmill Brewing Company will donate a portion of beer sales sold during the evening to the K9 Fund, as well.
“All in an effort to keep Dasty healthy and on the job in Merrill,” Hintze said. “We look forward to the evening and your support in our effort of making Merrill a safer place to live with Dasty on the job!”

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