K-9 Sgt. Hawk reports for duty

Junior Gonzalez

The York County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit has admitted a new furry member to the force — and a local resident is trying to help raise money to protect the dog on the job.

Sgt. Hawk, a black-and-tan purebred German shepherd, is the third K-9 in the division.

Cpl. Corey Strine has been assigned as Hawk’s handler. Both will be headed in March to a six-week training course at Von der Haus Gill German Shepherds, a K-9 police academy in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Strine said he is “absolutely excited” to go to Ohio and learn along with Hawk. A 12-year veteran of the force, Strine is being assigned a K-9 and participating in K-9 training for the first time. Hawk will be trained in explosive detection, article (human) tracking, area searches and the ability to detect firearms.

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Strine said K-9 dogs were called out 110 times last year in deployments ranging from bomb-sniffing missions to visiting schools for educational purposes.

Donations: The Hawks Club of York, also known as the Hawk Gunning Club, donated $15,000 to the sheriff's office to cover both the purchase of Hawk and the cost of his training, according to the sheriff's office. Additional K-9 equipment will be paid for with donations as well.

Mona Pants, a nonprofit foundation based in Florida that focuses on dog rescue, is helping raise money to purchase a special vest from Ray Allen, a professional K-9 equipment company in Colorado.

Kathy Williams works with Mona Pants on the organization’s “vestification” project and said the foundation was inspired to provide protective K-9 vests after CNN anchor Anderson Cooper purchased ballistic vests for an entire K-9 unit in Norfolk, Virginia, after one of the department’s dogs was fatally shot during a mission.

Williams said that when the project initially began, little money was coming in. Then they posted a photo on social media of the sheriff and his partner. “Within a day of posting that officer’s picture, we raised the money for the vest,” Williams said. The vests are made with Kevlar, a bulletproof material, and cost about $1,000.

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Valuable: So far, $600 has been raised for Hawk’s vest by York County resident Wendy Looker and a few of her friends. Looker has been aware of Mona Pants and its work for a few years, and she finds their work important.

“A lot of times (the K-9 unit is) one of the first programs to be cut,” Looker said. She believes in the need for dogs to be protected, regardless of where they serve.

“Obviously the dogs in our area aren’t in the same danger as a dog in a combat area, but they’re still incredibly valuable,” she said.

Mona Pants is accepting donations through its Facebook page and website for the vest.