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Long-time city resident Amy Finkel wanted to celebrate the memory of her brother-in-law Robert Camp, a retired Secret Service agent who protected six presidents over his career.
So she decided on the unique tribute of donating $15,000 for the purchase and training of a German Shepherd for the Alpharetta Police K-9 Unit. Matt Peterson, another civic-minded citizen, donated the $4,100 for a ballistic protective vest for the dog.
“Robbie,” named for Finkel’s brother-in-law, joins three other K-9 dogs in the unit. He will be partnered with officer J.C. McDonald.
“The dogs are used to sniff out drugs, tracking and, in extreme cases, apprehension, said police Lt. Dan Dreslinski, who partners with Bak.
At the Dec. 14 City Council meeting, Mayor Arthur Letchas read proclamations communicating the thanks and appreciation of the city to Finkel and Peterson for their generosity.
“By their efforts to make Robbie possible for us, Alpharetta now has one more officer to ensure its residents’ safety,” Letchas said.
Director of Public Safety Gary George congratulated Finkel for replacing a dog that had recently died suddenly.
“This is a wonderful thing she has done,” George said. “This helps us just that much more to do our job protecting the citizens of Alpharetta.”
Finkel said she was glad to be able to do this for the city and to memorialize her brother-in-law.
Nine-year Alpharetta resident Matt Peterson’s donation of a bullet-resistant vest for Robbie was much appreciated by the Police Department as well. The officers bond with their dogs, and they want the same protection for their four-footed comrades that they wear.
“I’m glad to be able to help out,” Peterson said. “I understand what these dogs do for us.”
By Hatcher Hurd
After shots were fired by a passenger in a sports utility vehicle in downtown New Bern Saturday, Officer James Rowe with the New Bern Police Department K-9 Unit released his dog on the man.
The dog jumped through the window of the parked vehicle at the passenger, which drew a cheer from a crowd of onlookers gathered for one of several demonstrations by K-9 unit handlers as part of the MumFest 2009 festivities.
Rowe, senior handler and trainer for the K-9 unit, as well as Officer Thomas Carter demonstrated the obedience as well as the search and assistance abilities of Bak, a German shepherd from Czechoslovakia and Zorin, a Belgian Malinois.
In one demonstration, Bak searched four closed suitcases laid out in a row on the parking lot for marijuana. He scratches, barks and bites in the area where he has discovered drugs, Rowe said, as he is an “aggressive alert” dog trained to react that way.
In another simulation, Zorin, searched for one of the officers, who was hiding inside one of several large white boxes. Zorin trotted swiftly around the boxes, and then he barked and jumped on the box when he found the officer.
Then the crowd watched while Carter demonstrated how the dogs are trained in verbal and hand signals, commanding Zorin to sit, lie down and come. The verbal commands are issued in German, Carter said.
New Bern resident Owen Rose said the demonstration was an “awesome sight.”
The 7-year-old had stopped to watch the dogs with his parents after watching a man make balloon animals and the balancing and stunts of the Kenya Safari Acrobats.
He said the dogs’ abilities were “cool,” and that he was startled by the gunshot in the traffic stop demonstration.
“It would need to take a lot of training,” he said.
Claudia Rose commented that the traffic stop really showed the dog’s agility.
“We were just talking about the amount of training it takes, that these dogs go through with their handlers,” she said.
New Bern resident Mel Taylor had an opportunity to pet both Bak and Zorin after watching them demonstrate their abilities.
“They’re just beautiful dogs, highly trained and really good-natured,” she said. “I’ve got a soft spot for animals anyways, and I think it’s great that we’ve got such outstanding people protecting us in our police force and in our K-9 unit.”
By Laura Oleniacz
Three lucky dogs with New Bern police K-9 units received new bulletproof vests Monday.
At a ceremony at the Eastern Carolina Internal Medicine Center at Berne Square, the three dogs, Clyde, Zorin and Bak,
were nervous and fidgety since it was their first day wearing the vests.
“The dogs have to get used to the vests,” said K-9 handler Christopher R. Lind. Lind handles Clyde, a German shepherd.
The vests, which cost $1,800 each and are customed-tailored, were donated as a show of appreciation from
Eastern Carolina Internal Medicine to the police dogs and their handlers.
T. Chaconas, office manager for ECIM, wanted to get the vests for the dogs to show appreciation to the K-9 units
for the work the dogs do at the facility.
“Whenever we have an alarm, the dogs are here searching the building for intruders,” Chaconas said.
ECIM is located in a 60,000-square foot building. Staff members allow the dogs to train there during
early-morning hours before patients arrive. “The dogs learn how to search a large building with slick floors,
desks, and supplies,” Chaconas said.
The way the dogs received the vests from ECIM came after an employee of the medical facility, Jackie Thompson,
came up with the idea.
The staff at ECIM came up with donations to buy the vests. A non-profit organization called VestN’ PDP
(Police Dog Protection) in New Mexico found a N.C. state grant to help with the purchase.
Officer Jim Rowe, senior handler and trainer and partner to Bak, said the vests are about safety.
“Now the dogs are safe. We appreciate the donation of the vests for our partners,” Rowe said.
Rowe is proud of Bak, who was donated to the police department by the Highway Patrol. “He has been
in service 8 months and already has confiscated a pound-and-a-half of marijuana and cocaine,” Rowe said.
Deputy Police Chief Ed Preston said the vests would not have been possible without the help of ECIM.
“We just didn’t have the money in the budget for the vests,” Preston said.
K-9 officer Thomas Carter was just as appreciative that his dog Zorin received a new vest.
Carter handles the only Belgian Malinois; the other two dogs are German shepherds.
Like a lot of retired police officers, Bak yowls to return to the beat.
But like retirees everywhere, the more he takes it easy, the more he grows to enjoy it.
Bak was a drug-sniffing German shepherd dog teamed with city police canine Officer Michael Roth from 2000 until earlier this year.But in March, the police department retired Bak because of his age and the effects of an injury he suffered while tracking down a suspect last year.
Bak now spends his days with Roth, his wife, Katie, their 3-week-old daughter, Bridget, and and the family’s beagle mix, Cappi.
In a pen in the back yard is Bak’s colleague, a bomb-sniffing dog named Beil, named for Officer Joseph Beil, one of the five original canine officers. In honor of this year’s 50th anniversary of the city police canine unit, five new dogs have been named for the canine officers.
The recent retiree, Bak, hasn’t yet completely settled into the life of a plain old pet at Roth’s Southampton neighborhood home.
“It breaks my heart and breaks his heart to see me go,” Roth said. “When he sees me leaving, he still thinks it’s his time to go to work.”
To prevent fights, Bak is kept away from the 3-year-old Beil, at least for now.
On the other hand, Roth said, “He’s slowly adapted to being a couch potato.”
Roth joined the city police in January 1995 and was a patrolman until 2000, when he transferred to the canine unit and was partnered with Bak, who was born in October 1998.
When a dog teams up with a police officer, it stays with him for its entire career, said Sgt. Ken Hornak, who heads the K-9 unit. A concrete pad is poured at the canine officer’s home for a pen.
Over Bak’s career, Hornak said, he probably made hundreds of successful searches for drugs.
The department has eight drug-sniffing dogs and four bomb-sniffing dogs in the canine unit, all German shepherds.
While that is far less than the peak of 49 service dogs on the streets in 1979, they’re following a pioneering tradition that began when the city Board of Police Commissioners selected five officers in May 1958 to travel to London, England, for 16 weeks of training. They returned with police dogs.
“We were one of the first K-9 units in the country,” Hornak said.
In 1960, city police started a training center for canine officers at 13300 Bellfontaine Road in North County. People came from as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida, Hornak said.
Now officers come from local Missouri and Illinois departments within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis.
More than 120 police service dogs are buried in a cemetery at the training center. While none died on duty, a number of them were injured, Hornak said.
Bak suffered an injury on May 24, 2007 when he went into a vacant house where a suspect was hiding and severed an artery and two tendons in his right rear leg, possibly from a cut on a broken window.
After the suspect was caught, Roth performed first aid on the dog and then took Bak to a veterinarian.
By the time the dog reached the veterinarian’s office, he had lost a third of his blood.
After the dog’s life was saved, he won the 2008 Outstanding K-9 Service Award from the German Shepherd Dog Club.
But then the decision was made to retire Bak and bring in Beil.
Beil’s training was even tougher than Bak’s, Hornak said.
“In the certification process, the narcotics dogs are allowed a miss, but the bomb dogs have to be perfect,” Hornak said.
Since Beil started, his work has included sweeps of the campaigning area for three visits by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barak Obama. He also may be called on to check the Edward Jones Dome before St, Louis Rams games.
Meanwhile, Bak has to watch while his master goes off to work with another dog.
“He’s slowly adjusted to the retired life,” Roth said. “He will want to work until the day he dies.”