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Paws in Blue: Fundraiser to help raise K-9 money, awareness

Loki is currently the town’s only K-9 officer.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Any dog lovers in the area, who also happen to be competitive doughnut-eaters, should make certain their calendar is open on Saturday, Sept. 8, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

And for those who REALLY love dogs, there will be a dog-kissing booth.

The “Paws in Blue” fundraiser, to be held at Persimmon Ridge Park, will raise funds towards the purchase and training of a K-9 unit for the town.

“It’s amazing what these dogs can do,” Chairman of the Paws in Blue Fundraising Committee Ruth Verhegge said recently. “It’s almost unlimited the benefit that these dogs have had. They’re truly amazing.”

The Town of Jonesborough currently has one K-9 unit, “Loki”, a chocolate lab trained in narcotics detection and tracking.

Verhegge added that K-9 dogs can be trained in two specialty areas:

• Article searches for weapons, contraband, narcotics, explosives, other evidence types

• Tracking and search for criminal suspects

• Search and rescue tracking for lost or missing children and elderly victims

• Physical apprehension of fleeing or combative suspects

• Building and open area searches for suspects

• Handler protection against assault by suspects

• Establishing probable cause by alerting to the presence of narcotics

• Establishing probable cause by alerting to the presence of explosives

The areas in which the new K-9 will most likely receive training will be explosives detection and apprehension.

Such specialized training is not cheap, and Verhegge hopes the fundraiser will raise a large portion, if not the entire sum, of the cost of purchasing and training the canine.

“Police dogs cost between $13,000 and $15,000 by the time the dog is trained and the handler is trained. There’s several certifications both of them get, so it’s not an inexpensive process.

“I’m real hopeful that this event on the 8th (of Sept.) will generate a pretty good amount of money.”

The newest member of Jonesborough’s K-9 unit will be purchased in Michigan, and receive training alongside his or her new handler at the same location.

Officer Dustin Fleming and Loki.

According to a Police K-9 Information release, “Initial Handler School for a ‘green’ dog and handler consists of six weeks of intense training in all K-9 functions. K-9 teams must complete a minimum of 16 hours of training in all functions monthly, with most handlers completing 24 to 30.”

For certification, the JPD chose the North American Police and Working Dog Association, which “is considered to be the premier certifying agency in the Police K-9 industry.”

Once training has been completed, the new police pup will live with the handler, although the town will be the owner.

While adding another K-9 to the force will certainly benefit officers and citizens, ultimately Verhegge envisions more than two K-9 units.

“Our ultimate goal is to have four dogs. So we’d have one on duty on every shift and then one that could fill in when, say, you have vacation or something like that.

“My dream is that even once we get the dogs, we will continue to have fundraising to support the K-9 program, because the town has to pay the vet bills, buy the food, all these kinds of things to continue to support the K-9 program. I’m really hoping that we’ll start some real community buy-in to this program.”

The “Paws in Blue” Fundraiser will showcase the skills police dogs use to aid police departments and give the community a chance to meet Jonesborough’s current K-9 team.

“We have invited all the area police departments that have K-9’s to bring their dog or dogs, so they can compete. The idea is that they’ll compete doing things like searching a building or looking for drugs,” Verhegge said.

“We’re hoping we get the prison to bring down one of their bloodhounds so we can show the bloodhound tracking somebody. We want to demonstrate the things police dogs can do.”

Ultimately, Verhegge’s goal is much more ambitious.

“My dream is eventually we’ll have a regional competition where we’ll end up with a regional top police dog. That’s the dream.”

Many area businesses and clubs have volunteered or donated in order to help with the event, which will require supplies to build the facilities needed.

“(Lowes is) donating all the materials that we need to build all the things we need for demonstrations. And all these things that are built will go up and be in a training area so the (Jonesborough) dogs can continue training in it. That’s what we’re going to use all this stuff for. They will train on this monthly.”

With a training area available for the local K-9 units to use, JPD can eliminate travel costs and any other expenses to maintain their monthly training requirements.

According to Verhegge, Lowes will also be giving away smoke alarms at the event.

The local Civitan branch has chipped in, as well. “A huge one is the Civitan Club. And Jonesborough Area Merchants & Services Association. You have to have some money to raise money. And they’ve made that possible.”

Tractor Supply is donating a large dome doghouse, while Fresh Market is donating for a raffle.

Two food trucks, “Let’s Taco ‘Bout It” and “Auntie Ruth’s Doughnuts”, will provide sustenance at the event, along with Pizza Plus.

Local resident John Abe Teague and his son will also be cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs.

If watching highly trained police dogs chase down “suspects” and sniff out “contraband” inspires competition among the attendees, a Doughnut Eating Contest around 1 p.m. will provide an outlet.

Natural Pet Supply plans to set up a dog washing station for those who bring their pups to the park. The event will also feature exhibitors such as the Humane Society, Off Leash K-9 Training, Camp Ruff N More, Dianne’s Pet Projects, Sticky Paws and Kayla Byrd.

If the whole family joins the fun, Wetlands Water Park is another option.

“The pool will be open. Normally it closes on Labor Day and they’re going to open it for us so people can swim for a donation,” Verhegge said.

For those who attend the event, make sure to keep an eye out for “Loki”.

As Verhegge said, “His most dangerous weapon, other than his nose, is his tail.”