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Paws in Blue fundraiser to spotlight K-9s, family fun

Staff Writer [email protected]

A weekend full of hot dogs and heroes will take place Saturday, June 11, as the fourth annual Paws in Blue Fundraiser Event gets underway.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Jonesborough Middle School’s activity field, K-9 officers from regional police and sheriff departments will get together with members of the community in an effort to raise funds to help the Jonesborough Police Department obtain and support their police K-9’s.

“Support for development of a training area for K-9’s to use to meet their certification requirements continues to be provided. Events will be conducted to allow Jonesborough residents to ‘meet’ our K-9’s,” said event founder and organizer Ruth Verhegge. “Plans also include taking the dogs to area schools to provide information about police dogs and to expose students and faculty to police officers and police dogs.”

The K-9 Competition and Demonstration will start at 10 a.m. on the football field with representatives from area law enforcement agencies ready for their challenges. Also enjoy a K-9 demonstration showing off skills for tracking, apprehension and article search.

Verhegge said the mission of the fundraiser is to support the Jonesborough Department of Public Safety’s K-9 program through fund- raising and conducting educational programs related to police K-9’s.

“We also have goals to raise money to have four active canines, reserve to replace canines when one retires, support canine programs with food and vet bills, as well as support canine education programs,” she said.

The mission to support K-9 programs started in 2017, Verhegge explained.

“During the fall of 2017, one of Jones- borough’s police dogs was retired due to the development of Degenerative Myelopathy. This meant that the town was down to one canine and, as a result, had limited coverage by this valuable asset to the Department of Public Safety,” she said. “In addition, in the spring of 2018, there were 2 incidents in Jonesborough where a K-9 would have been valuable – one where no appropriately trained K-9 was available to help and one where we were able to borrow a dog with the needed skill and, as a result, a successful happy ending.

“As a result of these occurrences, a citizen of Jonesborough organized a committee of citizens and key Jonesborough employees to discuss the possibility of raising funds to obtain addition- al K-9’s and support the K-9 program for the town. The name “Paws in Blue” was chosen and we went to work developing plans to raise funds.”

Verhegge added that the first opportunity to raise money was during Jonesborough Days, an annual festival held by the town during the 4th of July holiday period. Members of the committee set up a booth to provide educational information about police K-9’s, provide information related to a planned event and to raise funds by donations. The sewing group at the Jonesborough Senior Center made “Doggie Scarves” which were available for a donation. As a result of participation on this event, we raised nearly $2,000.

“In September of 2018, the committee held its major fundraiser, a canine competition. Prior to the event, area businesses had jars strategically placed where customers made donations. The day before the event, we had a “Celebrity Bagging” at a local grocery store. A local television celebrity, the Chiefs of Police and Fire departments, the Mayor, Aldermen and police officers all participated,” she said. “The major fundraising event was a police canine competition with vendors with dog-related items and food trucks. Nine area police dogs representing five area police and sheriff’s departments participated. Areas of competition included article search, hardest bite and fastest dog. As a result of this event, we raised nearly $5,000.

“In October, Paws in Blue set up a display during the National Storytelling Festival. Again, we provided educational information and raised funds by donations to support the Department of Public Safety’s K-9 program.”

Paws in Blue event will include over 19 local vendors from local stores and artists with a variety of dog-related items. There will also be a Doggie Photo Booth, face painting and balloon sculpting.