On any given day, K-9 Ranger patrols the city of Washougal with his police handler, Officer Kyle Day. While intimidating to fleeing suspects whom he has to chase, Ranger often has the opposite effect on other people during routine calls.
“I think a lot of the time, he breaks down that barrier,” Day said. “People may have dogs, and you automatically have that connection. It’s a good way to get through a police officer showing up.”
The 3-year-old Dutch shepherd joined the Washougal Police Department in November after graduating among the top in his class, said Mark Watson, a board member with nonprofit Dog Owners Group for Park Access in Washington (DOGPAW). Ranger succeeded Dingo, a narcotics K-9 who retired in October after serving the city for seven years.
Without the support of the Washougal-Camas community, Dingo’s retirement would have marked the end of the police department’s K-9 unit. The city didn’t have the $15,000 it costs to purchase and train a replacement.
When Watson heard about the department’s predicament last year, he thought perhaps DOGPAW — an all-volunteer nonprofit serving Clark County — could help.
In the past, DOGPAW has worked with the community and local governments to secure and prepare land for five dog parks in Clark County. The organization also holds fundraisers to fill needs at the dog parks. Three of the dog parks have been named after K-9s killed in the line of duty — Lucky Memorial Dog Park in Brush Prairie, Kane Memorial Dog Park at Hockinson Meadows Community Park and Dakota Memorial Dog Park at Vancouver’s Pacific Community Park.
Watson suggested to the DOGPAW board that the organization hold a fundraiser for a new Washougal K-9.
“We were just excited to think, here, we could help a living dog,” said DOGPAW President Cindy Franke. “How nice to do something like that instead of waiting until a dog gets killed.”
The board’s eight members voted unanimously to hold a fundraiser to buy a new K-9 for Washougal, so that Dingo could retire, Watson said.
“Kyle is such a wonderful guy, and the cause was so great, and unfortunately, Washougal didn’t have the money for it, so we just took it and ran,” Watson said.
But in order for Dingo to retire on time, volunteers had less than three months to raise $15,000 to buy Dingo’s successor, Franke said. That is the most the organization has raised for one fundraiser.
K-9-caliber Dutch Shepherds cost about $12,000 apiece, plus the department needed $3,000 for training, food and other dog necessities, Franke said.
The campaign’s motto was “Help Dingo retire,” she said.
DOGPAW volunteers went door-to-door in Washougal and Camas, canvassing for donations to what volunteers dubbed “Dingo’s retirement fund.”
“In today’s market, it’s very hard for communities and businesses because times are tougher, but all of (the donors) graciously stepped up for the cause,” Watson said.
For instance, Washougal’s Main Street Pizza agreed to donate half of its profits from a single day toward purchasing a new Washougal K-9. A couple of individuals from the community also made significant donations.
“Toward the end, we were able to accomplish our goal, and Ranger was the outcome,” Watson said.
“We definitely couldn’t have done it without the community’s support,” Day said.
Before starting his new job, Ranger had to go through 10 weeks of training.
Like Dingo, Ranger is trained to sniff out narcotics, but he also has been trained to pursue suspects, Day said. He also lives with his predecessor, Dingo, and Day.
“We’re responsible for building searches, looking for a suspect if someone runs from a crime scene, also narcotics searches,” he said.
On July 2, Ranger helped locate a robbery suspect who had fled Washougal’s 7 Market after threatening a cashier with a hatchet and demanding money.
“He gave up without incident,” Day said. “Ranger didn’t have to bite him.”
In addition to daily patrols, Ranger also visits schoolchildren and does demonstrations at public events. For example, he visited Washougal’s Hathaway Elementary School a couple of months ago, Day said. He’ll be at the Clark County Fair next month, Day said.
“He likes people, and he likes to go to work,” Day said.
On the Web: http://clarkdogpaw.org/