July 16th, 2024

Calendar celebrates 60 years of K9 service with city police

By Lethbridge Herald on October 21, 2023.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman PSD Robbie with the K9 Unit is featured in the first of its kind LPS K9 Unit Calendar 2024 now available for purchase.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

The Lethbridge Police Service is celebrating 60 years of service from the K9 Unit with a “pawfect” Christmas gift for dog lovers who want to keep track of the 365 days of 2024. 

The first-ever Lethbridge Police K9 Calendar is now on sale with all proceeds benefiting Lethbridge and District Humane Society and Lethbridge Area Search and Rescue Association.

Lethbridge Police Service with the K9 Unit, Cst. Steve Zwartbol told media Thursday the calendar is not only an opportunity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the unit, but also an opportunity to create a fundraiser to give back to local organizations that have contributed to the community for many years.  

Zwartbol said the idea of a calendar has been tossed around for a number of years, but last fall it took shape into what has now become the 2024 K9 unit calendar. 

“It’s the first time, so we’re excited to see what will happen. We’re a small community, so many days when we are on the street working, the first questions they ask is which PSD or which police canines you have, so we’re looking at creating a sense of partnership where they can now put a face to a name, they can see the active certified dogs that work to keep them safe every day,” said Zwartbol. 

In terms of the pictures, he said that in order to put a face to the names, some of the pictures display the dogs with their handlers so people become familiar with who works with which dog and the pictures are taken in different locations across the city that represent the various locations they work around. 

“You’ll see a blend of both, dogs with their handlers and dogs alone.

“On the cover is the group of four dogs, the unit itself with our Sergeant that gives us the leadership. In addition to the individual months, we have a random spread throughout the year and some just specific dogs in different environments,” said Zwartbol. 

He said it was a bit tricky for the dogs to sit still for some of the photographs people will find in the calendar, but it was a lot of fun with many treats involved. 

LPS has now 60 years of experience dealing with their canine counterparts, so the calendar photoshoot was just one more way to interact with their furry companions. 

LPS acquired its first dog in 1964, Thors Yorker, better known as York, who was initially handled by Cst. Glen Berry, then Cst. Joe Schenk. York came from a kennel in Devon, Alberta and served with LPS until 1972. 

In the early days, police dogs were trained in Belt, Montana. 

In the mid 1990s an in-house training program was developed and has been used ever since. Since the inception of the police service dog program, there have been 29 canines – including the dogs who are currently serving.

The service’s current K9 teams work alongside the frontline patrol teams, providing 24-hour coverage.

LPS currently has four dog teams – PSD Myke working with Cst. Braylon Hyggen, PSD Robbie working with Cst. Andrew Firby, PSD Aron working with Cst. Steve Zwartbol and PSD Zap working with Cst. Terry Fieguth. 

Myke and Robbie are Belgian Maliniois’ and Aron and Zap are German Shepherds.

Service dog Robbie just turned 10 years old within the last month and he’s scheduled to retire next August if everything goes well with the new dogs being trained in the spring. 

PSD Robbie is doing great now after an incident that resulted in him getting stitches and he is back to his normal bouncy self, says Zwartbol. 

PSD Robbie will be cycling out with PSD Myke who has been working the street since the spring of 2017.

LPS K9 calendars are available for cash purchase only, with a cost of $20 at the front counter of the police station during business hours Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

As the holiday season approaches, members of the K9 Unit will also be selling the calendars at various community events.

 Further details about the ‘paw-pup stores’ will be shared once arrangements have been made.

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