NMPD begins fundraising for K9

North Manchester Police Department Sgt. Nate Birch plays fetchwith his K9 partner, Strider, at their home in North Manchester. Photo by David Fenker

By David Fenker

North Manchester Police Department is looking to the community to help support and grow its K9 team.

NMPD’s K9 unit, Strider, lives with Sgt. Nate Birch, his wife Jennifer and their two dogs in their North Manchester home. While the department pays for Strider’s food and any veterinary expenses, the cost of entertaining, comforting and treating the dog falls on the Birches.

“Chief [Jim Kirk] came up with the idea to set up collection jars at local businesses. How long they’ll stay out, I don’t know. It was just an idea we tossed around, and a couple stores said they’ll do it,” Birch said.

According to Kirk, food and veterinary costs are covered through the department’s budget as needed. He said that this fundraising effort will help cover those costs, and will also go toward getting the department a second dog sometime in the future, which will cost $8,000-12,000 plus training costs.

“We’re wanting to pay for expenses and buy another dog. We’re using Strider enough that we could certainly use two dogs,” he said.

Birch said that he has already received some donations from the community.

“The police department does pay for my food and vet bills. Typically, toys and all that are all out of pocket. There has been one citizen who has donated [gift cards], and I’m grateful for it. She’s given me gift cards and specified that they’re to be used for Strider, for his treats and toys. I’m very appreciative that she’s done that.”

Additionally, Birch said that the local First Brethren Church has donated funds to help care for Strider.

In addition to the initial cost of purchasing Strider, the department sends him and Birch to Fort Wayne each month for continued training.

Cost of the job
Even with the financial aid from the department, the Birches still feel the strain of Birch and Strider’s jobs.

“It is hard sometimes. He gets called out quite a bit, at all hours. I’d like to think that North Manchester is safe, but weird instances happen. The longer he’s out, the worse it is,” Mrs. Birch said.

Since Birch is the only K9 officer with NMPD, he and Strider are on call 24/7.

“The K9 program takes up a lot of your personal time. It’s hard to explain to my wife sometimes that, when the guys call, I get up and go. I could be gone 15 minutes, or I could be gone two or three hours, depending on what we got into,” Birch said.

Kirk noted that Birch and Strider are sent out at least three times per week, and sometimes multiple times per day. He said that they also assist other agencies when needed.

According to Kirk, Strider can be used to track fleeing suspects or find lost children, as well as for detecting narcotics.

“[Police dogs] are an expensive asset, but worth it. Drugs have to get from point A to point B, and if we use our assets well we can catch them in transit. That’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what we’re trying to deter,” Kirk said.

Happy and healthy
Birch said that he has a bed in his office at NMPD for Strider, and that the K9 will play with chew toys while Birch does paperwork.

“He’ll go over there and chew on his Kong,” Birch said, referring to a brand of chew toy known for its durability.

“He actually split his Black Kong – Black Kongs are supposed to be their toughest ones to chew on – once it started splitting, I took it away because he’s not going to be able to process rubber. And, he’s like, ‘Hey, where’s my toy?’”

Additionally, Birch said that he has to buy extra-durable balls to play fetch with, as Strider’s strong jaws can pop tennis balls fairly quickly.

“The balls that we play fetch with are the Chuck-It Balls; he doesn’t seem to pierce those quite as fast as tennis balls. He’ll pop a tennis ball within moments of giving it to him, so I can’t give him regular tennis balls. He loves to play,” Birch said.

“We play fetch constantly. When he’s off duty, he’s off duty. The dog just loves to play.”

In addition to plenty of play, the Birches keep Strider healthy and ready for duty with a high-quality dog food.

Birch buys Canidae food, which he said is high in protein and low in filler, resulting in a healthier, happier dog.

“It’s a really good food. I’ve had a couple vets recommend it, and even Allen Feeds said it’s a good food. There are very, very few fillers in it, and he said that can actually extend the life of the dog. When you start giving a dog cheap food that has a lot of fillers, hips and other joints can break down faster because the filler is not good for them,” he said.

“Shepherds are known to have hip problems later on in life, so being a small town, we want to maximize the life of the dog as much as we can, especially his work life. That’s what we’re going for, so if it means giving him a better quality food to maximize the end-game, I’m all for it.”

How to help
Those who would like to help the Birches and NMPD can donate at Allen Feeds, Liquid Assets and the News-Journal. Businesses that would like to become a donation location may call NMPD at 260-982-8555.

Posted on 2017 Jul 11