City gets money for canine hero

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, November 5, 2009

Most supermarket customers do not pay for their purchases with checks anymore, but there was one rather large check written at the Bridge Road Farm Fresh on Thursday.

Farm Fresh and Milk-Bone donated $5,000 to the Suffolk Police Department K-9 Unit for the purchase of a new police dog. Milk-Bone, the manufacturer of dog treats, has partnered with its retailers to donate more than 850 service dogs to law enforcement agencies and individuals with various physical disabilities since the program’s inception in 1997. Thursday’s donation made a total of five dogs donated to police departments in the Hampton Roads area.

“This is a way to support the community, and give back to consumers who buy the products,” said Doug Melton, a business development manager for DelMonte Foods, the parent company of Milk-Bone.

Farm Fresh employees and customers gathered inside the entrance to the store to watch the ceremony, complete with an oversized check. However, the real excitement was outside after the ceremony, as four of the six officer/dog teams in Suffolk’s K-9 Unit gave a demonstration of the dog’s skills.

“What these animals do for our citizens is really amazing,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson, just before viewing the demonstration.

In the store’s parking lot, Officer Tyson Wild guided his dog, Otto, through a series of five metal boxes. When the dog arrived at the fourth box, it immediately lay down and looked up at Wild, a sign it had detected drugs inside the box.

A second dog, Falco, and his handler, Bill Maxwell, demonstrated how dogs help apprehend suspects and protect police officers. Another officer suited in thick padding pretended to attack Maxwell, a move that caused Falco to latch onto the padded arm and not let go until the officer shrugged out of the suit.

New police dogs cost between $5,000 and $7,000, a price that reflects the fact that the dog is already an adult and has had extensive training and maintenance, city spokeswoman Debbie George said.

“The canine unit performs very critical roles,” said Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett. Searching for missing people, apprehending fleeing suspects and detecting drugs are only a few of the responsibilities the department’s dogs have.

Bennett said the new dog would be used to replace a dog that is nearing retirement age.