The Community Center was full at the April 30 dinner that benefited the Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation (SPP&FF), a major financial supporter of the SPPD K9 program. Above Debbie Johnson and Carol Mailloux dish out a plate of spaghetti

K9 annual dinner runs out of
pasta but has plenty of dog treats

May 07, 2014
Santa Paula News

They ran out of pasta but more importantly there were plenty of dog treats at the 5th Annual Santa Paula Police K9 Spaghetti Dinner where supporters of the program celebrated those crime-fighting canines still on duty, recently retired and that have passed over the Rainbow Bridge.

Retiring SPPD K9 Chevy was honored, as was K9s Zak and Hozy, handled respectively by Sgt. Scott Varner, Senior Officers Larry Johnson and Randy Haumann. 

The event also memorialized late 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 Community Center was full at the April 30 dinner that benefited the Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation (SPP&FF), a major financial supporter of the SPPD K9 program.

Even early in the evening it was evident the evening was going to be “excellent,” said K9 Dinner Committee Chair Debbie Johnson, treasurer of the foundation board.

“We’re very excited and expect a great turnout... the community always responds to this event,” where they get dinner and a K9 show for a very low price.

Said Johnson, “If not for this great community, fabulous volunteers and helpers, the SPPD Explorers, that sell the raffle tickets, Citizens Patrol, Barry Cooper on the guitar playing lovely music, so many donating their time and talents, well, I don’t know how we’d do it”

Becky Grant said the dinner was not only her first one, “But they also made a slave out of me,” helping her sister-in-law Janet Grant cut tomatoes and set up the room.

SPPD Cadet Martha Reynolds-Brown and her helpers gathered an array of raffle prizes ranging from dinner gift certificates and car detailing to Santa Paula Salsa Co. special K9 label salsas to flowers and flight and gift baskets. 

Reserve Sgt. Dave Curran, assistant coordinator of the Explorers, made it a true family affair with his wife Melanie and son Dave among the volunteers. 

Perhaps as always it was the cooks that deserved much credit especially on the hot day’s menu of spaghetti that required much pot hovering.

“It was hot in that kitchen,” said Janice Dickenson, “even with a swamp cooler!”

SPP&FF Board Director Don Johnson told the crowd it indeed takes a village to put on the event, including cooks that included foundation board members and Santa Paula Odd Fellows.

Reynolds-Brown thanked those at the center, noting, “We’re sold out... I’m truly proud to be associated with Santa Paula,” not only as a resident and member of SPPD team, “But also to work with friends and amazing people,” that put together the dinner.

She introduced Varner, SPPD K9 Supervisor, who noted the department “Relies heavily on the community” in supporting and promoting the program, which began in 1981 when then SPPD Officer Rick Cook was partnered with Bronco.

Cook, now Santa Paula’s mayor, attended the dinner as did Councilman  Martin Hernandez, City Manager Jaime Fontes, Police Chief Steve McLean and Commander Ish Cordero. 

Also in attendance were K9 handlers from numerous law enforcement agencies that train with SPPD’s dogs: “We train with departments all over Southern California,” and Varner noted thanks were also due to the Inglis’ family, Dave, Debbie (she was unable to attend) and son Daniel, trainers of dogs and handlers.

“We really thank Debbie and the foundation... they do so much for us,” said Varner, who presented Johnson with a bouquet of flowers.

Varner emotionally admitted it was hard retiring Chevy, whose own emotions at again being among his fellow officers was obvious through the black dog’s whines and barks.

The foundation not only shoulders the initial minimum $12,000 investment in the dog but also continues to pay for specialized training -such as narcotics detection and hard surface tracking-that costs $4,000 to $5,000 per program.

And, noted Varner, “They also supply us with everything you can imagine,” including basic equipment such as leashes and collars.

“We would not be able to do it without the community support and the foundation.”

The K9s are more than worth it: “The dogs are a great resource in the community... everybody loves the dogs,” that are wonderful for interacting with the public.

That is, great for most of the public... bad guys are a different story for the dogs, invaluable in searching and clearing buildings in record time or finding suspects trying to hide.

The dogs “Can pretty much make any suspect cower down and give up,” rather than risk being on the losing end of an encounter with the K9.

K9s also have found lost and trapped children and in the cases of many cities generated revenue through property and cash seizures that resulted from illegal narcotics’ detection.

Varner joked he would never partner with an explosives’ trained K9: “When you have a dog that detects narcotics,” it is the beginning of the investigation but “When you have a dog that signals they have found explosives,” the handler is in imminent danger.

But, “For many of us becoming a handler is a lifelong dream,” albeit one said Varner that requires “endless hours of training and commitment.” 

And that includes acting the role of a suspect being pursued by a K9 while wearing the bulky “bite suit... and if it’s a hot day you want to wear that suit first!” 

Haumann’s dog Hozy and Johnson’s Zak, both 7 years old, were recognized for serving the community each for four years.

Varner said the last year has “Been a difficult one for the department,” with the passing of three retired K9s.

Coffelt and Smith-now a UCSB Sgt.-were unable to attend to receive the plaques for their late dogs Jack and Rex.

Varner noted Jack partnered with Coffelt in 2001 and retired April 2010 after “multiple suspect finds” and the discovery of a half-kilo of heroin.

Smith, “Wanted to express how honored he was to serve the SPPD,” including the years he was partnered with Rex starting in 2006 after the dog spent four years with another officer.

During Rex’s career he found 96 suspects and was involved in apprehending 33 more before he retired in April 2010. 

Fogata accepted the honor for his late partner Evan noting the popular K9, his partner from 2002 to 2010, had numerous narcotics finds including two kilos of methamphetamine and $51,000 cash. He also tracked down the suspect in a fatal traffic collision that killed two people.

Johnson presented the recognition of Chevy’s service to Varner before Don Johnson outlined other needs the foundation has fulfilled for the city’s police and fire departments.

Following the event-attended by more than 200 people-Debbie Johnson said, “I really want to thank the sponsors... without our great sponsors we wouldn’t be able to fund the needs of public safety that we do.”

Varner said he believed the event had “A great turnout, many people showed a lot of support for our K9 program and we’re definitely appreciative of it.”

In fact, “It was sort of overwhelming to see that many people, that it got to the point they didn’t have enough food to be served... it goes back to what a great town Santa Paula is and showing they support the SPPD means so much to us... and the department is giving back what we can.”

Even Chevy, who eagerly took part in the dog demonstration with his former co-workers Hozy and Zak, had a good time.

Perhaps, said Varner, too good: “Chevy was all fired up Thursday, wanted to go to work,” and frantically signaling that although staying home with the Varner family is nice, at heart Chevy remains a K9.

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