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Paws for a Cause: Aftermath Introduces the 2015 K9 Contest Winners

This Friday, November 6, 2015, Aftermath Services presented the Lake County Sheriff’s K9 Unit with a $5,000 check as part of Aftermath’s annual K9 Giveaway Contest. Presenting the check was Aftermath’s CEO Doug Berto; Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose proudly accepted. Several members of the local K9 unit were on hand to pose for photos, including K9s Dax and Diesel, and their handlers, Deputies John Forlenza and Craig Sommerville. The head of the K9 unit, Sergeant James McKinney, and the Aftermath marketing team were also in attendance.

Leaders of the Pack

Open to all law enforcement agencies with K9 units, Aftermath’s nationwide contest received thousands of votes and hundreds of nominees. Police departments in Colorado and Massachusetts earned 2nd and 3rd place respectively, while the Lake County Sheriff’s Office climbed to 2nd place in the final few days of the contest.

Sargent McKinney credits Sheriff’s Office employee Ann with being instrumental in encouraging the office and community to participate and vote every day. In addition to regular emails featuring photos of the K9 unit, Ann “exploited every connection possible,” including school personnel and city employees. “I reached out to everyone I could think of,” she said. “Facebook and the community played a big part, too.” Other employees also took up the call. Sgt. McKinney remarked: “One of the guys even went office to office in the city building, reminding people to vote.”

K9s as Assets

Though this is the fourth year for the K9 contest, 2015 marks the first year the Lake County Sheriff’s Office has participated. It came at a perfect time, too; the agency recently revamped its K9 program, including three new dogs in the past year. Deputy Arrowood and his K9 Partner, Duke, are the senior members of the team. Dax and Diesel joined their partners this summer.

As is the case for many departments, funds for the K9 unit come out the yearly budget, which can be extremely limiting. The Lake County Sheriffs Office has also been fortunate to receive grants from D.A.S. Charitable Fund, a Lake County organization dedicated to preserving animal lives. Sergeant McKinney stated that the funds from Aftermath would be used to provide lifesaving vests for the dogs. They also hope to invest in a new technology which aids in detecting heat stroke, which is deadly to hard working dogs like Duke, Dax, and Diesel.

While costly, K9 Units are an irreplaceable asset to the communities they serve. “Events like these are important because it gives us the chance to demonstrate the value of the K9 unit to the community,” McKinney said. “You can’t put a price on saving the life of a child or a suicidal person. And that’s just one part of what these dogs do.”

Meet Dax and Diesel

Speaking of saving lives, Diesel and Deputy Sommerville were recently dispatched to a situation involving a suicidal person. As deputies arrived, the individual ran out of the home and jumped off a second story deck, disappearing into the wooded neighborhood. The temperatures were in the low 30s that night, and the subject was highly intoxicated – a very dangerous combination. In a short time, Diesel successfully tracked the victim and led his partner to the location. According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Facebook page, Diesel is a dual purpose patrol K9, trained and certified in narcotics detection, human scent tracking, article/evidence searches, obedience and handler protection/apprehensions.

Similarly, Dax helped Deputy Forlenza locate a violent suspect on a golf course, and assisted on executing a search warrant, saving law enforcement countless hours of work and manpower by locating 7 guns and several pounds of heroin, cocaine, and marajuana. “Even the small things they do are important,” Deputy Forlenza stated. “There are small successes every day. These dogs love their work.” Duke and his partner, Deputy Arrowood, have also had a busy year. In one case, they pursued and located an armed burglary suspect who had escaped arrest.

The dogs and their handlers work a full week, including a full day of training. Some days are as long as ten hours, and they also train on Saturdays. At night, the animals go home with their partners and stay with their families. While the days can be long, they receive top notch care, not to mention plenty of playtime. A healthy K9 can serve the team for over 8 years, and can live many years after that. Segeant McKinney, a former handler himself, reported that his retired service dog is now 15. “Every dog is a serious investment, but it depends on the individual dog how long they stay active,” he said.

Aftermath Cares

At the award meeting, Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose extended his gratitude to Aftermath. “This is another example of how public and private partnerships make for successful community policing,” he said. “We are thankful to Aftermath for their financial support for law enforcement and we could not have won without the tremendous support we received from our employees, county employees, Facebook followers and community supporters. Thanks to all.”

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is already planning ahead to next year’s contest. “We’re ready to win again,” Sergeant McKinney said. Good luck, guys – we’re sure that other departments will be on your tail all the way to the winner’s circle!

If you are a member of law enforcement and wish to learn more about Aftermath and the services we provide to communities, check out our website. Also be sure to join our email list and receive notifications about all of our quarterly contests, including the PPE Giveaway and Gear Up Sweepstakes!

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