Henderson County's K-9 units have a new park to train at thanks to donations from the community and elbow grease from local students.
The grand opening was held Thursday for the Henderson County Sheriff's Office K-9 Agility Training Park, located behind the detention center. Funding for the materials was achieved through donations raised by the nonprofit Stand T.A.L.L. and was constructed by carpentry students at North Henderson High. The park consists of many basic wooden structures designed to teach dogs how to walk on and jump over various obstacles. One feature is a balance beam for K-9 units to walk along. There are also several obstacles that simulate a wall or fence for K-9s to jump over.
K-9 Officer Robert Pace said the agility training is vital for the dogs.
'If we don't get them ready for it now, then when the time comes that we need the dog to do his job, he's going to shut down,' said Pace. 'He's going to come to that obstacle and say 'I don't know what this is; I'm not going to go over it.' And we're going to be finished. I can't thank Stand T.A.L.L. and these students enough for what they've done for us.'
The Sheriff's Office held demonstrations for the media Thursday. While K-9 Ranger leaped over the walls with no issue, he struggled a bit on the balance beam. Pace said that obstacle is one of the hardest things they ask the dogs to do.
'It takes a lot of work to convince the dogs they're actually safe on this if they just trust us,' said Pace.
Training was previously done at city and county locations, with no permanent structure or areadesigned for K-9s and their handlers.The park will be open for the Hendersonville Police Department and other K-9 law enforcement agencies to use.
Stand T.A.L.L. President Ron Kauffman said that several months ago, the organization's vice president, Sharon Hanson, asked Pace what he thought would be most helpful to the K-9 corp. Pace said it would be great to have a dedicated K-9 park.
'Ms. Hanson saw an opportunity to satisfy a need within the Sheriff's K-9 corp and the idea was discussed with (Sheriff's Office) leadership,' said Kauffman. 'While they initially had not decided on a location, the project was deemed to be worthwhile and important, so we got to work.'
In addition to the park, Stand T.A.L.L. presented the Sheriff's Office with a $10,000 donation for the purchase and training of a new multi-purpose K-9.
StandT.A.L.L. also presented Pace with a plaque with the names of major donors for the K-9, which will be on display in the entry hall of the Sheriff's Office.
'We appreciate the tremendous and ongoing support the (Sheriff's Office) has received over the past years from Stand T.A.L.L.,' Sheriff Lowell Griffin said in a news release. 'This new facility and the soon-to-be acquired new K-9 will be a lasting tribute to their hard work and support.'- Andrew Mundhenk, Times News