Heroes & Hounds
They packed the stands and lined the field three deep in a field behind Sun Splash Family Waterpark.
The sounds of an acoustic performer filled the air, to soon be replaced by the hard-rocking sounds of The Killo-Watts.
The inaugural Heroes & Hounds event took place on Saturday, featuring some of the best K-9 police dogs in the region, from Sarasota to Naples, competing for top honors in front of a packed crowd.
The event was created to help support three area charities – Holiday 4 Heroes, the soon-to-be-built Cape Coral Animal Shelter and Southeastern Guide Dogs School.
“We wanted to join three charities together along with the Cape Coral Police Department,” said Jonette Kessack, co-organizer. “We’re talking about ourselves and taking donations and doing raffles.”
More than two dozen vendors attended, many of them animal related, from dog food to veterans to animal rescue. One of the booths was manned by the Calendar Girls, the dancing troupe of women 60-plus, though they weren’t here to dance on this day. They were there for the Southeastern Guide Dogs.
“We hope to earn enough money to purchase our 20th guide dog for a veteran,” said Katherine Shortlidge, program coordinator for the Calendar Girls. “We’re running the wine truck, the beer truck and the ticket sales. We’re just volunteering our efforts.”
The real action was at the obstacle course, where the K-9s and their handlers traversed the course with obstacles that resemble what both dog and handler may face in actual deployment.
The Guns & Hoses Pipe and Drum Corps and the CCPD Honor Guard marched in for the national anthem before 22 teams from a dozen area agencies competed in the obstacle course, hardest hitting and fastest dog.
Handlers had to go through some of the same obstacles as the dogs, even having to carry their animals at some point. The dogs had an opportunity to go into attack mode by biting a decoy before crossing the finish line.
Some of the obstacles had dog toys in them to try to distract the K9s.
“There are no surprises here. Everyone has been training for weeks. All these agencies will be timed on this course,” said CCPD K-9 officer Stephen Scrobe. “It’s amazing what people do for charity, especially something like this. It’s great to bring us together.”
The winners and their agencies were:
1. Ofc. Nelson and K-9 Bronson, Sarasota Police Department
2. Ofc. Aponte and Xander, Cape Coral Police Department
3. Ofc. Matyas and Suka, Cape Coral Police Department
4. Ofc. Deal and Niko, Lee County Sheriff’s Office
5. Ofc. Clapp and Bane, Cape Coral Police Department
6. Ofc. Walker and K-9 Dutch, North Port Police Department
Hardest hitting K-9:
1. Dep. Kearns and Ruger, Hendry County Sheriff’s Office
2. Ofc. Reese and Arca, Cape Coral Police Department
3. Ofc. Grider and Saban, Florida Highway Patrol
1. Ofc. Kearns and Ruger, Hendry County Sheriff’s Office
2. Ofc. Walker and Dutch, North Port Police Department
3. Ofc. Dickenson and Stitch, Coral Gables Police
Not every attending agency was on the course competing. The Peace River K-9 Search & Rescue had a line of people waiting to take pictures with Jennifer Thompson and her dog, Eli.
“We support our brethren in the canine biz so we’re here to help them out,” said Mike Hadsell of the Peace River K-9 Search & Rescue. “We didn’t get the notice in time, so we brought the dogs for PR. It helps keep the crowd happy.”