Putting on the dog: 5th Annual K9 Spaghetti Dinner April 30

April 09, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula Times The whole community is invited to put on the dog at a gala celebration of Santa Paula’s top canine cops at the 5th Annual SPPD K9 Spaghetti Dinner to be held Wednesday, April 30.

The retiring K9 Chevy will be honored, as will K9s Zak and Hozy, handled respectively by Sgt. Scott Varner, Senior Officers Larry Johnson and Randy Haumann. 

The event will also memorialize late beloved K9s: Evan (partner to SPPD Sgt. Jimmy Fogata), Rex (partnered with former SPPD Sgt. Ryan Smith) and Jack (partner to Detective John Coffelt), all who passed since last year’s dinner.

The K9s’ handlers are also invited to this evening of food, fun and a fascinating program centered on how the dedicated dogs are trained held at the Community Center.

Dinner-spaghetti and meatballs as well as side dishes-will be served cafeteria style at 5:30 p.m. and the program will start promptly at 7 p.m. 

Tickets are only $15 for adults, $5 for children 12 years and younger (eat-in only is available for child plates) and easy takeout is only $15 each (remember: no child plates offered for takeout). 

“It’s always a fun evening, a great time to meet our dogs and their handlers,” said Dinner Committee Chairperson Debbie Johnson, treasurer of the Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation, which sponsors the event with the help of generous supporters. 

“We’re really looking forward to the demonstration the K9s will be putting on,” a real crowd pleaser especially for the kids that also get to interact with the dogs when they’re in their off-duty mode.

Last year each table held collages of the SPPD K9s and handlers and the kids scrambled to get the officers to autograph them.

Johnson said fundraising is constant for the foundation’s K9 that provides the police dogs with expensive but necessary training and equipment. 

Varner, supervisor of the SPPD K9 program, will be the emcee of the event, each year a community favorite.

K9s are a vital contribution to the crime-fighting community, where their presence alone has been known to stop criminals in their tracks. 

Not only can K9s be trained to serve as specialized Smell-O-Meters, detecting everything from explosives and narcotics to weapons but the dogs are also a great means of outreach.

Varner said, “The dogs are a great public relations tool for us... people love the dogs,” and just as personality is an attribute sought in an officer so it goes for a K9 candidate.

“When we do the selection process we make sure they’re going to be people persons, both the officers and the dogs... and we want to make sure the dogs,” a majority of which are imported from Germany, “have a good disposition... if they don’t they’re not for us.

“We look for a well-rounded dog,” that enjoys visits to schools where it does demonstrations of catching bad guys or sniffing out contraband before playing with the students.

“Schools love to have the dogs visit and the dogs love it too,” said Varner.

Of course the dogs are always more than willing to get down to serious business and “Our K9s do a lot of work we can’t do. Since we’re somewhat under-staffed,” the dogs are especially vital.

Varner said where it might take officers an hour to search a large building for a suspect, “The dog will take only 15 minutes... they’re also great for narcotic searches,” but it’s that one-on-one contact that shows the value of K9s.

“Having a K9 can deescalate situations, a suspect just seeing the dog,” can prompt them to give up without further incident.

“Overall, dogs are just great tools,” said Varner, whose own K9 partner Chevy is now retired.

As is traditional Chevy is living with Varner’s family including four children 10 to 18 years old.

“Chevy is very much part of the family, he’s a handful,” although not as big as the thick-coated German Shepard appeared.

“He has a huge coat,” said Varner, “but if you get him soaking wet” it’s obvious the dog is actually much smaller than he appears.

Varner and other SPPD K9 Officers appreciate the support they receive from the community, “It’s huge in my opinion...  I’m completely grateful for the community support without it I would never had the opportunity to be a K9 Officer.”

And he also appreciates the annual spaghetti dinner: “I’ve been to the events of other agencies and they’re big major events, very nice but ours has that hometown, homier feel. I like our dinner and the support is so great. I prefer ours... and hopefully this year we’ll have more people than in previous years, we just want it to get bigger and bigger.”

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