ROXBURY, NJ – “Kai,” a police dog owned by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Cpl. Michael McMahon, a Roxbury resident, is now “America’s Top Dog.”
The duo won A&E Network’s “America’s Top Dog” competition, a victory televised on March 18, the season finale. McMahon and his 4-year-old K-9 partner outshined six of the nation’s most daunting K-9 teams to capture a $25,000 grand prize.
All the prize money will be given to a non-profit or animal welfare organization, such as one that cares for retired police dogs, according to the Sheriff's Office.
McMahon and Kai -- known as #teamkai -- aced the eighth episode of the popular series that aired on Feb. 26. On Wednesday, #teamkai won three strenuous obstacle course and maze challenges to emerge as the champion.
“I have the best job in the world,” McMahon told “America’s Top Dog” sideline reporter Jamie Little. “It was an awesome experience getting to know everyone.”
“Unstoppable,” is the word “America’s Top Dog” co-host Nick White used to describe K-9 Kai at one point in the finale.
Hours of Hard Work
Reflecting on the thrilling experience, McMahon later said, “From start to finish this has been a great experience … We are honored to have shared this experience with so many great teams. It is still early in our career together, and we look forward to many more successful years as a team serving the people of Morris County.”
He also thanked his wife, Michelle, and children. “The hours of hard work that we have put in together and all of the sacrifices we’ve made continue to shine through,” he said.
The corporal also thanked Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, Chief Kelley Zienowicz and Chief Warrant Officer Richard Rose for affording him the opportunity to represent the office and the K9 community.
“And last but, definitely not least, thank you to all of the members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section and our in-service training group for all of their hard work and dedication to our craft,” McMahon said. “It takes a strong partnership to create K9 teams that perform at a high level and without all of them, this would not have been possible. This is a win for all of us.”
Gannon was jubilant about #teamkai’s success and its correlation to outstanding service to Morris County.
“I’m so proud of Detective Corporal McMahon and K-9 Kai for being designated America’s Top Dog and handler,” he said. “This is the level of service expected and delivered on a daily basis to the people of Morris County.”
McMahon was selected to be a contestant on “America’s Top Dog,” which is produced by Big Fish Entertainment, in the spring of 2019. He and his family, including Kai, whom he raised as a puppy into a K-9 patrol dog, boarded a flight for Santa Clarita, Ca., where the series was filmed.
The series, which started Jan. 8, brought together 50 K-9 teams from across the country to prove their skills on a massive obstacle course that involved jumping walls, climbing up boxes and over barrels, tracking down elusive scented objects, scrambling across a shaky rope bridge, apprehending a suspect and swimming across a 46-foot-long pool.
The seven best teams competed in Wednesday’s season finale during which two teams were eliminated in both the first and second rounds. By the third and final round, #teamkai was pitted against Alpharetta, Georgia Police Sergeant Mark Tappan and K-9 Mattis.
McMahon and Kai, in the final round, outpaced Team Mattis by nearly nine seconds to capture the championship.
Round One, called the K-9 Combine, required dogs to dash in and over vehicles, run up a ramp, and cross a wobbly wood-planked bridge suspended by ropes and designed to test the dog’s confidence on shaky surfaces. To motivate K-9 Kai to complete the last challenge of the Combine – swimming across a 46-foot pool to the finish line –McMahon threw a ball in the water that Kai eagerly grabbed.
#Teamkai won Round One in 1:10.71 minutes, 19 seconds faster than the runner-up K-9 team.
Round Two was a test of odor-detecting abilities, with canines and handlers required to dash through a maze of rooms and find four scented items within four minutes. Again, McMahon and Kai came out on top.
By Round Three, called The Doghouse, only two teams remained to prove the dexterity, courage, obedience, intuitiveness and fitness of their K-9 partners, as quickly as they could.
It took Kai -- with McMahon either running beside him or performing the same feats – less than two minutes to pass through a tangled spider web, cross a narrow plank like a gymnast, run through duct work and down a flight of stairs.
Kai’s last task was to apprehend a “suspect,” whom he obediently released upon McMahon’s command before stepping up with him to the Winner’s Circle.
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