Citizen Staff Writer
Athletes and dogs and illegal activities. Gotten enough of that lately?
Here’s a twist, and it’s a slice of happier news than Michael Vick, dogfighting and death by strangulation and drowning.
In Tucson, with a trio of ex-UA athletes at the center, there is a canine success story that goes by the name of Rudy.
Rudy is involved in plenty of illegal activity, too. Specifically, in stopping it.
Last April, former UA football players Rob Waldrop and Gregg Shapiro, senior partners in Galapagos Marketing, teamed with client Sundt Mortgage to donate a fully trained police K-9 to the Pima Country Sheriff’s Department.
That would be Rudy. His handler is Sgt. Greg Bargar, a former major-league pitcher and member of Arizona’s 1980 national championship baseball team.
“These dogs are our partners and are also part of our family,” Bargar said. “When you have a K-9, that bond is unbreakable.”
For as repulsive as Vick’s actions are, almost as shameful/dim-witted/nauseating are those professional athletes who have stepped forward as Vick apologists of sorts, with the underlying theme of “it’s just a dog.”
Just a dog?
Here are some stats that are more important than yards per carry, earned-run average and 3-point shooting percentage:
In the past year, “just a dog” Rudy has, according to a news release, helped in the recovery of about $735,000 in drug money, seized more than 40 pounds of cocaine, 25 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 pounds of heroin and 7,400 pounds of marijuana.
That’s in addition to numerous searches and arrests of suspects in carjackings, kidnappings, robbery and such.
“They do things that we really don’t want to do,” Bargar said. “They do it without question and they love the work. There are times when they will save the handler’s life. We don’t think of them as just an animal.”
This is a fine time to mention this. Galapagos Marketing is gearing up to make another donation to the Sheriff’s Department and wants to drum up further support from businesses and citizens, making this an all-the-time event.
The cost of bringing in another fully trained K-9 will be $13,000.
The department is hoping to replace a retiring K-9 by the end of the year, and it also will have to replace another older K-9 next summer. Bargar said the money saved by the department can go to buy other equipment.
More information can be found at www.supportAK9.com.
“In a perfect world, I would like to double the size of our unit,” said Bargar, who said the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has seven K-9s in use. “The county is still growing, and we’re getting new districts all the time. It would be nice to have a K-9 for each new district.
“K-9s are expensive, but they are well worth the money in the work that they do.”
Rudy’s first apprehension involved a carjacking/kidnapping in which the suspects fled into a neighborhood.
Rudy, a Belgian Malinois, went into the neighborhood and narrowed the location. Officers were able to more safely enter the area and apprehend the two suspects.
“A lot of these subjects would basically be gone,” Bargar said. “We wouldn’t be able to find them.”
Just last month, after a traffic stop of a semitrailer on I-10 near Marana, Rudy sniffed the exterior of the trailer and alerted Bargar to possible drugs.
Bargar called in the Counter Narcotics Alliance, which discovered 3,200 pounds of marijuana hidden among cases of bottled water. The estimated street value of the marijuana was $1,440,900. “And they probably have another six years of this with Rudy,” said Waldrop, a former police officer in Torrance, Calif.
Bargar said this method of direct donation for a K-9, which typically serves from six to eight years, is becoming a trend nationwide. Perhaps those disgusted by recent headlines can find an outlet by supporting a K-9.
“Our dogs are very, very well taken care of,” Bargar said.
Only fair. They’re taking pretty good care of us, too.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org