It has been said in law enforcement that when the police need back up, they call in the SWAT team. When the SWAT team needs back up, they call in the K-9 unit. Whether that saying is accurate or not, the more than 250 working law enforcement dogs in Virginia help apprehend criminals, detect drugs and explosives, and venture into places unsafe for humans on a daily basis.
Over the past 50 years, 12 dogs are known to have been killed in the line of duty. The sacrifices of these animals are now permanently memorialized on the campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
“Veterinary medicine plays an important part in this process by ensuring the health of these animals,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the veterinary college. “By maintaining the eyesight, sense of smell, hearing, and agility of these dogs, veterinarians are also helping to ensure the wellbeing of those the K-9 so selflessly protects.”
Dedicated on Oct. 16, 2009, the memorial, named “Ready to Serve,” is the only one of its kind in Virginia. It consists of a life-size bronze German Shepherd police dog sculpted by Blacksburg artist Larry Bechtel, creator of such installations as the “Officer Down” statue in front of the Roanoke, Va., City Police Department, the Addison Caldwell statue at Virginia Tech.
Located adjacent to the main entrance of the college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the memorial uses a granite base to list the names of law enforcement dogs that have lost their lives in the line of duty in Virginia.
The memorial, funded entirely through private donations, was a project that took five years to complete. The project was a partnership between the veterinary college, the Virginia Police Work Dog Association, and the United States Police Canine Association. It was spearheaded by Officer John Hoover, a deputy with the Franklin County Sherriff’s Department and a master K-9 trainer with both associations.
“It’s tough to find the words to describe the incredible role these dogs play in law enforcement and public safety,” Hoover said.“They put their lives on the line every day, just like officers.They are partners and they are heroes.”
In addition to honoring law enforcement dogs from around the commonwealth, Virginia Tech currently has a two-team K-9 unit, comprised of Officer Larry Wooddell and K-9 Boomer and Officer Jaret Reece and K-9 Boris. Boris and Boomer sweep Lane Stadium and other locations before football games and other special events as well perform patrol duties on the university’s campus. In addition, Boris served as the model for “Ready to Serve” while being handled by Retired Officer Keith Weaver.
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