(Below) Members of Valhalla's Forge LLC, Spikes K9 Foundation and the Portsmouth Police Department pose for a photo after presenting a memorial for police K9s.
Tradespeople, volunteers and off-duty police officers from around the Hampton Roads, VA region took time out of their day on April 28 for a single purpose; To give back to the Portsmouth Police Department by helping to repair and rebuild training obstacles used by department’s K-9 Unit.
Off-duty Portsmouth, VA police officers like Randy Pierce said that it’s a great occasion to do some good and to allow the community to get to know the officers of their department better.
“I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come out and get to know us,” Pierce said. “We have a ton of people out here today that are giving it their ‘all.’ Some with building experience and some that do not have building experience. And that’s fine. The fact that they are taking time out of their day to come and help us complete this task says a lot about the community and its connection to their police department.”
The earliest recorded use of canines in combat or helping to enforce laws was by the Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 B.C.
Dogs were also used extensively by the Romans to guard the living quarters of soldiers and officers and to fight along-side advancing infantries, according to CertaPet.com.
The use of dogs on the ancient battlefields is just as meaningful to police departments today.
Those uses are to minimize the dangers to the lives of officers involved while maximizing the agency’s ability to locate and subdue a potentially hostile subject in areas deemed too unsafe for human officers, said Larry Faulkner, a retired Dayton, Ohio police Major.
Most recently, K-9 Officer Bane, of the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department was killed in the line of duty while attempting to subdue a suspect. Bane's effort saved the life of the officers involved with the pursuit.
James Hatch, the founder of Spike's K9 Fund and retired U.S. Navy SEAL, approached James "Jimmy" Hintzke, the chief executive officer of Valhalla's Forge LLC, a custom metal and woodworking company for a collaborative effort to honor the working dog community.
Hatch is no stranger to working K-9s and their abilities within hostile circumstances. In addition to his duties as an Assaulter, Hatch served as Naval Special Warfare Dog Handler when mission parameters deemed it so on several assignments, according to Hatch.
On two separate combat missions, two military working dogs, Spike and Remco respectively saved Hatch's life.
During the second mission, Hatch was wounded during an exchange of small-arms fire with enemy personnel.
Alongside Hatch returning fire was an armed U.S. Navy Master-At-Arms dog-handler and his K-9, Remco, Hatch said.
While Remco was doing as he was trained to do; standing and protecting the area between Hatch and the Master-At-Arms as they returned fire, Remco was shot twice in the skull, killing him instantaneously, said, Hatch.
"I took a 'round' [bullet] to the leg, and Remco’s actions saved our lives that night," Hatch said. "Remco saved my life, and I will never forget that."
According to Hatch, the way in which Remco died, left a lasting effect on him even after he retired from the service.
“After leaving the Navy, I was a little confused about what I wanted to do in life,” Hatch said. “I was going through some issues. At one point I was contemplating suicide as a means to ease the pain. Cops came to my home [I had friends that were concerned for my safety and called them] and the police officers who had a lot of other options available, got me to the hospital and I started receiving the help I needed.”
Since getting help, Hatch said that he wanted to give back to the people who saved his life.
“I wanted to give back to the people who helped me,” Hatch said. “So, I talked to NPD [Norfolk Police Department] and asked if I could help them where I could help the most.” It turned out to be with their working dogs.”
While volunteering with the NPD, Hatch noticed that one of the department's K-9s wasn't feeling too well. But, funds weren’t available to adequately rectify the problem. And through the use of social media and charity, Hatch and the department got the dog help in North Carolina and is doing quite well, according to Hatch.
“Using the marketing tools associated with social media got me thinking,” Hatch said. “And that’s where Spike's K9 Fund originated. A lot of people love working dogs. They want them to have the best gear and training available. To date, Spike's K9 Fund has helped nearly 700 K-9s across the country. That’s not a small feat by any means.”
As to the future of Spike's K9 Fund, Hatch said that there is a long way to go to help every K-9 in need.
“Every dog that goes out to serve the public in whatever capacity needs to be equipped with the best material to help them do their jobs,” said Hatch. “And once it’s time for them to retire from service whether that be from a medical condition or old age; we're not going to 'throw them away.' Spike's K9 Fund finds a way to ensure that the rest of their lives are comfortable and full of happiness.”
Hatch isn’t the only person that knows the capabilities of military or police working dogs.
Hintzke, a fellow retired SEAL with multiple combat tours throughout the world said that it’s a privilege to create a memorial that recognizes the sacrifices of K-9s.
“For me, it’s an honor to memorialize those [human or animal] who’ve gone above and beyond the call of service to their nation and community,” Hintzke said. “I know first-hand the capabilities of working dogs. And they are an incredible asset to have no matter what.”
According to Hintzke, it was a little tricky finding the right way of celebrating the history of the city’s K-9 officers, but he and his High-Performance Team (HPT) of artisans came up with an agreed upon design.
"Anyone can come up with a design," he said. "But here at Valhalla's Forge, every time the HPT receives a job request, we go above what's minimally asked and craft a piece the customer will be more than happy with when they will be more than happy with when they receive it. And I certainly know my artisans captured that spirit."
For more information about supporting police working dogs, visit www.spikesk9fund.org.
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