To protect, serve, and wag: The RPD’s new K-9 facility honors past police dogs

It’s possible that past, present, and future police dogs are all better at their jobs than the rest of us.

On the city’s Northside, north of Laburnum and just east of Chamberlayne, behind the YMCA, alongside Washington Park, and behind the football fields of John Marshall High School, exists a swath of land which could be described as our city’s “miscellaneous” folder. A variety of features are here, all important to our city, but none that would make sense in an office at City Hall. A few years back, after a particularly windy storm, trees and limbs were brought in from surrounding neighborhoods and piled high, waiting to become mulch via enormous wood chipper. Today, in a large fenced enclosure, over a dozen wooden benches are neatly stacked. Next to this; large metal awnings that look vaguely familiar. There is fence surrounding a large road salt storage dome. Forest Lawn Drive leads here, from which gravel parking lots spread out. Dense (for the city) woods surround it all. One may even observe a deer attempting to make sense of their life.

Also, there is a dog park. The Northside Dog Park: a cooperative partnership between the Friends of the Northside Dog Park and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. This is a large, well made, yet under-used dog park. There are two sections of equally ample square footage: one for toy dogs, and one for real dogs. As a former Northside resident, who was often my dog’s only form of entertainment within these spacious confines, I encourage everyone, and especially all Northsiders, to get together with your dog-loving friends here. Make it a thing. It’s a nice dog park. And you may even catch a glimpse of that deer still attempting to make sense of its life.

You will also likely hear some of Richmond’s finest canines, as they bark out the names of which drugs they hate the smell of the most, from their kennels.

This is the site of the brand new facility for the Richmond Police K-9 Unit.

Richmond k9

Last Thursday, Mayor Dwight Jones, and Police Chief Alfred Durham spoke to announce the opening. Official-looking enormous scissors were brought out, and a blue ribbon was cut. In the building are indoor and outdoor kennels, a dog exam room, a community and training room, a small fitness room, as well as plenty of desk space for administrative work. Next to the building is a small, but poignant monument to the dogs who previously served with the K-9 unit. Carved into stone, and under the heading, “Loyal Partner, Fearless Protector, Loving Friend” are 103 names. Fritz, Smokey, Homer, Baron II, Skeeter, and Bullet are just a few.

The site of the new training facility has long been used by the Richmond Police K-9 unit. The first official building for this specific use was constructed back in 1965. Harry Pherson, a retired police officer of 29 years, has taken it upon himself to be the unofficial historian of the K-9 unit, the origins of which go back to 1957. He has created an online museum, which features an in-depth history of the unit, as well as new and old photographs of the dogs, officers, and even various the various vehicles used over time.

One black and white photograph shows how the K-9 Unit once utilized an enormous Ghostbuster-headquarters-sized station. It was a good look. A lot has changed over the years, and this new building is just another example of the growing importance the Police Department places on the K-9 unit.

Everything that we love about our dogs is also what helps make them excellent members of the police force. They are loyal partners, fearless protectors, and loving friends. If you follow Forest Lawn Drive to the end, you’ll arrive at two fairly humble examples of how we hope to pay the love back to our dogs. The Northside Dog Park is there, waiting for your group texts to turn into group dog-hang sessions. And the new Richmond Police K-9 facility now joins it as a way to show loyalty and commitment to their dogs, as well as the police officers who work with them and for the city.

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When retired Richmond Police Officer, Harry Pherson, isn’t busy working on his online museum for the Richmond Police K-9 Unit, he is working with his non-profit, Friends of Richmond K9. They organize events like a cornhole tournament, and something called the Lucky Field of Poop, to raise money for training, equipment, and more. Find out how you can get involved by visiting their website and their Facebook page.

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David Shultz

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