By Jacob Mathias
A three-day fundraising event is underway in front of the Copps grocery store in Stevens Point for the Portage County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit.
“A lot of people have been stopping by saying hi to the dog. Everyone wants to pet the dog. He’s a rock star,” said Chief Deputy Dan Kontos.
The fundraiser began Wednesday and will continue until 5:00 PM on Friday, July 3.
Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Wachowiak and his 9-year-old K-9 unit Baco were on-site at Copps to meet the public and teach about what they do.
“My job is to go out and it’s a game of cat and mouse,” said Wachowiak. “It’s the game of going out there and finding the narcotics that people are transporting.”
The K-9 unit made 80 drug arrests in 2014 and have already made 86 this year.
Baco and his 4-year-old counterpart, Lady, are the two K-9 units for the sheriff’s office. Both dogs are Belgian Malanois and take their command in Dutch. The K-9s are trained in drug detection, tracking, suspect apprehension and officer protection.
Lady is paired with Deputy John White who will both be at Copps on Friday, July 3 from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM to meet the public.
Both Baco and Lady live with their handlers who are responsible for their everyday care.
“We’re actually pretty good pals,” said Wachowiak. “I spend more time with him than I do my wife and kids. That comes with the territory.”
The initial cost for a both dogs was about $16,000 each. Other costs include specialized equipment and vehicles for the dog, continued training for the dogs and handlers, food and veterinary services.
Fundraising is needed because the K-9 unit is not budgeted within the sheriff’s office and relies solely on donations for funding.
This is the 3rd year that Copps has hosted a fundraiser for the K-9 unit.
“It’s a great charity event,” said Copps Dairy Manager Dan Eiden.
Eiden said last year’s fundraiser raised over $2000 and this year is on track to surpass that.
In order to raise funds, the Kemps MooMobile sold root beer floats and ice cream sandwiches, raffle tickets were sold for prizes including cases of pizza, coolers and cheese baskets and cash donations were also accepted.
All money raised goes directly to the K-9 unit.
Donations were made by Keebler, Palermo’s, Tombstone, Orv’s, Weyauwega Cheese, Miller, Portesi, 7-Up, Budweiser, Red Bull, Snyder/Lance and Steep ‘n’ Brew/Voortmans.
“People have been very generous,” said Kontos. “It’s certainly a program we’re committed to and we see a lot of value in it…we are really happy with the support the community has.”
Copps is located at 1500 Pinecrest Ave. in Stevens Point.