Pittsburgh’s newest police dogs welcomed to the force | TribLIVE.com
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Pittsburgh’s newest police dogs welcomed to the force

Tom Davidson
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Former City of Pittsburgh employee Katie O’Malley and her dog River, former canine ambassador (from left), stand with Dodger, the city’s first accelerant detection canine, and handler Police Detective Michael Burns, and Pittsburgh’s first comfort dog, Zane, and his handler Officer Victoria Butch, during a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Zane, Pittsburgh’s first comfort dog (front), and Cappy, a Bloodhound who is part of the Pittsburgh Police K-9 Unit, receive attention from Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich (middle) and 12-year-old twins Cassidy and Nathan Baxendell of Pittsburgh’s Lincoln Place neighborhood following a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Cappy, a Bloodhound, is petted by handler Officer Kevin Merkel during a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019. Cappy joined the Pittsburgh Police K-9 Unit in the fall and is used to for his tracking skills.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Cappy, a Bloodhound, is petted by Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto during a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019. Cappy joined the Pittsburgh Police K-9 Unit in the fall and is used to for his tracking skills.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Zane, a Golden Retriever, sits next to handler Zone 4 Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Butch during a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019. Zane is Pittsburgh’s first comfort dog.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Zane, Pittsburgh’s first comfort dog (back), looks around as former Pittsburgh canine ambassador, River, stands in front of the camera following a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019. River "resigned" in April after his owner, Katie O’Malley, who worked for the city for four years, accepted a new job.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Dodger, the city’s first accelerant detection canine, pants in the heat during a swearing in ceremony for three new canines in the city’s Public Safety Department in the North Side on Monday, July 1, 2019. Dodger is a part of the Fire Investigation Unit.

Cappy, Dodger and Zane are the newest four-legged members of the Pittsburgh police.

They were full of drool and needed plenty of water at noon Monday as they panted, sniffed and strolled around the grounds of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the North Shore on a bright day where they formally became police dogs.

The festivities were largely ceremonial as the dogs have been working with their handlers for a while and there’s no canine oath rubric. A bevy of city officials and law enforcement officers attended.

“We celebrate this today in good spirit, but we also recognize the risk that these dogs place upon themselves,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said.

Peduto remembered when Rocco, an eight-year-old German shepherd, was stabbed in the line of duty in January 2014. The mayor was among those who mourned Rocco’s death, including Max Sciullo, the father of slain Pittsburgh Officer Paul Sciullo.

“If it wasn’t for that dog, we might be having three more funerals instead of one,” he said at Rocco’s funeral.

“The K9 officers have played a critical role in public safety,” Peduto said.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich noted the history of the city’s 61-year-old K9 unit and its roster of 14 dogs, all of which are used on patrol. Nine of the dogs are used for explosives detection and five do narcotics work.

Now three more are in the fold.

Cappy, a bloodhound, replaces Loki, a bloodhound puppy who died from a lung condition last July.

He was donated by Mike Craig of Public Safety Dogs inc., a North Carolina-based organization that heard about Loki’s demise, Hissrich said.

Cappy joined the force in the fall. He’s trained to track and locate people who need to be found. His handler is Officer Kevin Merkel.

Dodger, a black lab, is the city’s first accelerant detection dog. He’s part of the city’s Fire Investigation Unit that’s made up of police and firefighters. He joined the unit earlier this year thanks to funding from State Farm. Police Det. Michael Burns is Dodger’s handler.

Zane, the newest member of the force, is a golden retriever puppy bread at Hillock Golden Retrievers in Ligonier. He is the city’s first comfort dog and will help first responders and victims of violent crimes. Zane will also replace River, the city’s first canine ambassador. River resigned effective April 5.

Zane joined the force in May and is already a social media darling.

His handler is Zone 4 Community Outreach Officer Victoria Butch.

During Monday’s ceremony, River met with Zane, presumably about the job.

In Hebrew, “Zane” means “gift from God,” Peduto and Hissrich said, something that’s important in the aftermath of the Oct. 27 mass shooting at Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill.

First responders who “run toward” gunfire and those who are victims of violent crimes need the comfort Zane can provide, Hissrich said.

The manner in which the dogs will help human police officers, firefighters and paramedics will make a difference in the city, Hissrich said.

“They truly are police officers and firefighters,” Hissrich said.

“We’re very serious about the work they do,” Peduto said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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