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Pickerington PD one step closer to bringing back canine unit
By the end of the year, a canine officer will join the Pickerington police force, Chief Michael Taylor said.
Pickerington has been without a canine unit since Zar retired three years ago. With the city facing financial difficulties, the police could not afford a new dog.
A canine unit requires a trained dog, a special vehicle, food, veterinary services and training for the dog's handler, Taylor said.
When Pickerington voters rejected an income tax increase last fall, the council questioned if it could even afford to keep the human officers.
Then, Milk-Bone approached the chief regarding its Canine Heroes Program.
During the past 11 years, Milk-Bone has partnered with grocery stores to help purchase police dogs to more than 900 communities nationwide, Company Representative Lisa Miller said.
In a ceremony on Sept. 22, Milk-Bone and Kroger presented a $5,000 check to Taylor along with Mayor Mitch O'Brien and City Manager Tim Hansley.
"From our point of view, we are extremely ecstatic," Taylor said.
More money arrived from the Hocking/Fairfield Major Crimes Unit (also known as the drug task-force) of which Pickerington is a partner.
The task force operates undercover narcotics busts and the money it acquires is divided amongst its members. Recently, Pickerington received $16,000 from the task force and purchased a Dodge Magnum for the canine unit.
After the presentation, the department still needed to raise $2,200 to purchase a dog. However within a week, two additional donors approached the chief - American Legion Post 283 and the R.G. Barry Corporation.
As of press time, Taylor could not disclose the amounts of the gifts.
Pickerington Veterinarian Jennifer Schoenfeld of All Pets will donate her services to care for the new dog as she did for Zar.
A police dog "is a vital part of the community," Schoenfeld said. "We want to make it easier to keep her here."
Taylor already has chosen which dog he wants - an all-black female from breeders Wade and Lori Morrell of Pickerington. The Morrells raise Dutch Shepherds at Liberty Hoeve Kennels.
During the Kroger presentation, the Morrells demonstrated the dogs' skills including sniffing for drugs, apprehending a suspect, and following commands. Taylor said a solid black dog would psychologically intimidate bad guys.
"You look at a black dog and see fear," Taylor said. "Every advantage you can get the better."
Within the next month, Pickerington Local School District students will have the opportunity to name the new canine officer.
The department will place suggestion boxes throughout the schools and for each dollar a student donates, they may submit one name. Proceeds will benefit the canine unit.
After a few weeks, the police will read through the suggestions. Those that appear the most frequently will be placed in another box from which the winning name will be drawn, Taylor said.
The new dog should be on the force for seven to 10 years, Taylor said.
Zar served 10 years before he was diagnosed with a terminal condition and had to retire, Schoenfeld said.
He lived his last year as regular dog "sleeping on the couch and playing in the backyard," Schoenfeld said. "He gained 20 pounds."
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