CURWENSVILLE – K-9 Officer Zeus will soon have a protective vest to keep him safe on the job with partner Jim Ward plus a little nest egg for training and care, thanks to the enthusiastic response to the Mountain Laurel Kennel Club’s pie sale Saturday.
“We raised $895 and counting. There are more donations out there so we will easily surpass $1,000,” said event organizer Valerie Swales.
The club needed to raise $600 to match an equal donation by a Curwensville business to reach the cost of the Kevlar vest for Zeus.
“The community’s response was awesome. We weren’t even set up and people were waiting, giving us money and not asking for change. Some didn’t even take a pie,” Swales said. The sale lasted barely two hours with more than 40 pies purchased.
Supporters came from all over the area to donate, including a couple from Frenchville who’ve had German Shepherd Dogs throughout their 51-year marriage and a Bigler woman who delivered a $100 check, Swales said.
Highlighting the event was a visit by Zeus and his owner, Curwensville Borough Police Officer James Ward, at 10 a.m. to the delight of several fans who had been waiting more than an hour.
“People were so excited to meet Zeus. Children, teens, adults, everyone loves him. He has so much personality and charm it’s easy to forget he is a highly trained police dog,” she noted.
Added MLKC Vice President Sue Kordish, who baked a special pie for the guest of honor, “He was not on his work collar so he was very different from the dog we see at demonstrations. Tons of kisses, offering his paw to shake, looking around to see who else was there. He was very much the friendly dog.”
The MLKC launched the effort to buy Zeus a vest after learning he received what is called in K-9 jargon his bite certification, meaning he can track and subdue a criminal with his jaws. He is also trained to detect drugs.
He is the only triple threat K-9 officer in a three-county area; his closest counterpart is in Altoona. The duo is on call to assist police departments wherever they are needed
“Zeus’s skills mean he can work off a leash, tracking, possibly going into buildings alone. Who knows what conditions he could be exposed to? We found it unacceptable that he would perform his job unprotected,” said MLKC President Geremy Kephart.
Zeus was purchased and trained with $5,000 of Ward’s money. He receives no tax dollars for his care, which tallies more than $1,000 annually. Funds collected beyond the price of the vest will be earmarked for that purpose.
Club members hope to present the vest during the coming holidays at the Curwensville business, which asked to be anonymous until the event, Kephart said.
“It was perfect in every way. This struck a real chord with people and, as a dog club, we are thrilled to make this possible,” Swales added.
The most touching contribution came from a little girl who missed the sale.
“She and her mom came to the borough building to see if we were there because she wanted to make a donation and see Zeus. Thank God I was there catching up on paperwork, I wasn’t on duty. She had $8, which was money she saved instead of buying a movie.
“She was only 3 or 4. I was so overwhelmed I never got her name. I hope her mom contacts me so I know this special little girl’s name,” Ward said.