‘An incredible gesture’: Adams County officials celebrate donation of drug dog by Quincy couple

Major drug dog

Handler Ian Jones shows off Major, a silver tipped German Shepherd who now is the drug dog for the Adams County Sheriff's Department, during a ceremony Thursday night at Quincy Country Club. Seated from left are Adams County Sheriff Tony Grootens, Joan Mast, Paul Mast and Adams County State's Attorney Gary Farha. | David Adam

QUINCY — The smiles on the faces of Paul and Joan Mast showed how excited they were to provide a drug dog to the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.

Seeing the dog also brought back memories.

Major, a silver tipped German Shepherd, was publicly introduced to a gathering of friends and family on Thursday night at the Quincy Country Club for the first time. He is training in Kane County with his handler, Deputy Ian Jones.

The Masts, who have been married for 70 years, were celebrating Joan’s 90th birthday on Thursday. They once had a silver tipped German Shepherd also named Major, and they paid for the donation of the new drug dog and his training.

The American Kennel Club reported in 2020 that German Shepherds were the third most registered breed. However, the silver tipped breed is considered quite rare. 

“A drug dog is typically a very costly thing, but the Masts are picking up the entire tab,” Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha said. “There’s no cost to the taxpayers. It’s something that I know the entire sheriff’s department, the police force and my office appreciates. This is an incredible gesture.”

Jones, who has been with the sheriff’s department for a little more than two years, and Major started their eight-week training course on Monday. Thursday’s event was the first time his 1-year-old, Jacqueline, could meet Major. The family also has a five-pound Yorkshire Terrier at home as well.

“The opportunity presented itself,” Jones said. “Everyone had an opportunity to put in for it, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s an opportunity for an extra tool to be provided to the department and other agencies in the area if needed.”

The last drug dog for the sheriff’s department was Reno, and his handler was Scott Saalborn. Paul Mast thought it was simply an opportunity to help.

“I talked to Tony (Grootens, the Adams County sheriff), and he said there was a need for it,” Paul said. “Joanie and I don’t have any family, zero family, so I want my money to go to people who do good deeds for Quincy.”

Before their retirement, the Masts owned and operated Master Pattern at 36th and Wismann Lane for more than 40 years. Paul told stories Thursday night about how their dog slept under his desk until salesmen visited. Paul would give a slight kick to his dog, and then suddenly, “there would be no more salesmen.”

Farha said Major will help the sheriff’s department in various ways.

“Canines still perform free air drug sniffs. Based on what they find, we can do searches of vehicles,” he said. “If somebody’s on parole, the police have an automatic right to search him and the car. In search warrants, a drug dog can go in a house and help find drugs that are hidden. I remember once on a search warrant, back around 1998, our drug dog Jake found two marijuana seeds underneath a mattress. He could sniff out things that small.”

Major also is learning apprehension and tracking during his training.

“He’s an all-purpose dog,” Jones said. “When people think of police dogs, they think of biting. They think of smelling drugs, Major also will do the tracking and article searches. He’s a dog just like anyone else. He doesn’t have free thoughts, so the dog’s success is pretty much on the handler.

“We’re only four days into this, so there’s a lot more to learn. Major is super competent, and he’s going let us know everything that he knows.”

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