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Latrobe's Bark for Life to honor slain Pittsburgh police dog Rocco

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

In its third year, Latrobe's Bark for Life event on Saturday will take time to honor the memory of Pittsburgh police dog Rocco while continuing its mission to empower people through canine companionships.

Event chairwoman Debra Sabatine believed it was necessary to recognize his work after Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, died in January of stab wounds incurred while helping police track a suspect.

“He did such a great job and there was such an outpouring at the time that he was killed,” Sabatine said.

Demonstrations from the Latrobe K-9 unit and the Greensburg Bloodhound Team will be featured alongside a giant card for attendees to sign that will be presented to Rocco's handler, Pittsburgh police Officer Phil Lerza and his family.

Bark for Life, one of many similar events nationally, is billed as “a canine event to fight cancer.” It benefits the American Cancer Society and is the only one of its kind in Westmoreland County, Sabatine said. The event features different walking laps for dogs and their owners, including one lap that celebrates cancer survivors, one that honors those who have lost their battle and a third for those who are still fighting.

Admission and parking are free for Bark for Life, although donations are welcome, and other vendors, children's activities and raffles will be featured alongside a canine wellness area featuring CPR demonstrations.

Sabatine of Hempfield said she and event co-chairwoman Molly Mons, also of Hempfield, are glad to see a continued increase in participation, especially because it is held indoors.

“Last year it was pouring rain outside, but we were indoors” at the B&D Creekside Activity Center, she said, adding that taking her long-haired Shetland sheepdog outside that day would have been much less enjoyable.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or

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